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Psychiatry Res. 1989 Jul;29(1):65-85.

The continuous performance test, identical pairs version: II. Contrasting attentional profiles in schizophrenic and depressed patients.

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Department of Medical Genetics, New York State Psychiatric Institute, NY 10032.


The Continuous Performance Test-Identical Pairs version was administered to 14 schizophrenic patients, 17 depressed patients, and 28 normal controls. The task was divided into verbal and spatial stimuli, as well as no-distraction and distraction (verbal and auditory) conditions. Both patient groups displayed attentional impairments compared to normal subjects, but they differed from each other in specific profiles. Schizophrenic patients were characterized by a global impairment and a particular inability to focus on the critical stimuli, whether verbal or spatial. They also made an excess of random responses throughout the task but showed no evidence that attention declined from its initial level over time. Depressed patients did not display a global attentional deficit but did show a specific inability to attend to spatial as compared to verbal stimuli and, in particular, a confusion when the spatial stimuli were only slightly different. Performance on a secondary task in response to a change in expectation improved dramatically for depressed but not schizophrenic patients, suggesting a more efficient allocation strategy, a greater reserve of processing capacity, or more dependence on motivational factors in depressed patients. Schizophrenic and depressed patients were alike in extent of distractibility. Whereas normal controls improved with the onset of external distraction, schizophrenic and depressed patients deteriorated to an equal extent. Distractibility was thus concluded to be a correlate of acute psychiatric illness and not specific for schizophrenia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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