Memory impairment in schizophrenia may be due to faulty 'noise filter'

The inability to filter out stimuli could be linked to the memory problems often associated with schizophrenia, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Columbia University found that a glitch in this type of filtering process can cause significant impairments in the ability to control working memory, the team wrote in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

"Our assumption was that understanding the impairments in the component processes of working memory - the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind - among patients with schizophrenia could be fundamental to understanding not only cognitive function in the disorder, which is widespread and has debilitating consequences, but also the disorder itself," study leader Dr. Teal Eich explained.

Impaired distinction between relevant and irrelevant thoughts

For the study, researchers recruited a group of patients with schizophrenia and a control group of healthy volunteers. The participants were asked to complete an item recognition task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging scans. Researchers wanted to see what happened in the ventro-lateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), an area of the brain that's associcated with working memory.

While healthy controls showed normal activity, the schizophrenic brains showed impairment in the ability to control memory.

"Our findings show that these patients have a specific deficit in inhibiting information in working memory, leading to impaired distinctions between relevant and irrelevant thoughts," said Eich.

Based on this finding, researchers might be able to understand which brain mechanisms are at work when schizophrenic patients can't seem to control their thoughts or filter ideas, the team concluded.

Source: Science Daily

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