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Schizophr Bull. 2012 Jan;38(1):104-13. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbr172.

Optimization of a goal maintenance task for use in clinical applications.

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Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.



We sought to develop a Dot Pattern Expectancy task (DPX) to assess goal maintenance for use in clinical trials. Altering the standard task created 5 versions of the DPX to compare-a standard version and 4 others. Alterations in the interstimulus interval (ISI) length and the strength of a learned prepotent response distinguished the different tasks. These adjustments were designed to decrease administration time and/or improve reliability of the data.


We determined participant eligibility in an initial session (the first of 3) using clinical interviewing tools. The initial session also included a demographic assessment and assessments of community functioning and symptom severity. All versions of the DPX were administered, across 3 sessions. Specific deficits on the context processing compared with difficulty control condition were evaluated using mixed-effects logistic regression within a hierarchical linear model.


We analyzed the data from 136 control participants and 138 participants with schizophrenia. Relative to a difficulty control condition, patients performed worse than controls on context processing conditions that required goal maintenance. ISI did not predict errors. Stronger prepotency was associated with increased errors in the difficulty control relative to context processing condition for controls, which improved the interpretability of findings for patients. Reliability was acceptable for a version of the task with a 10-minute running time.


The best compromise between task duration and interpretability occurred on a version with a short ISI and a strong prepotency.

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