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Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Jul 1;64(1):26-33. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.04.027.

Executive functioning component mechanisms and schizophrenia.

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Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA.



Executive functioning refers to a set of processes involved in complex, goal-directed thought and behavior involving multiple brain regions (e.g., prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex, basal ganglia) and multiple neurotransmitters (e.g., dopamine, glutamate, gamma-aminobutyric acid). People with schizophrenia exhibit executive functioning deficits that are associated with treatment-refractory aspects of the disorder. Although there is general consensus about what cognitive tasks involve executive functioning, there is disagreement about the specific cognitive mechanisms that comprise executive functioning.


This article discusses a number of possible candidate executive functioning mechanisms and provides a summary of the consensus reached by the executive functioning discussion group at the first CNTRICS (Cognitive Neuroscience for Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia) meeting in Washington, DC.


The consensus was that two constructs have a well-founded basis in basic cognitive neuroscience research and seem to be impaired in schizophrenia: 1) rule generation and selection; and 2) dynamic adjustments in control (i.e., after conflict and errors).


The consensus of the first CNTRICS meeting was that immediate translation of measures of these constructs for use in schizophrenia should be pursued. A number of other constructs (e.g., scheduling, sequencing) could also be very important for schizophrenia and are in need of more basic and more clinical research.

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