Researchers have spent decades studying cognitive impairment in schizophrenia. They have worked to develop therapies and medications that will help those living with schizophrenia maintain cognitive functioning so that they can continue to perform daily activities to their best abilities. However, experts have encountered many obstacles in their quest for better test participation. One major barrier to study inclusion exists in the cognitive impairment of the participants themselves. The Associate Inference Paradigm (AIP) is one tool used to measure the relational memory in individuals with cognitive deficiencies. But many of the individuals being tested are unable to successfully complete the training required in order to take the test. Some research has suggested that as many as one in three individuals with schizophrenia are not able to participate in much-needed testing programs because of their existing skill sets and the demands of the test as it is currently structured.
To address this predicament, Kristan Armstrong of the Department of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, created a revision to the existing AIP in order to more adequately meet the cognitive needs of individuals with schizophrenia. She enlisted 37 individuals with schizophrenia and 30 without and conducted three test scenarios on them. The tests included pairings of objects and faces and were designed to measure relational memory, a known aspect of impairment in schizophrenia. Armstrong discovered that a large number of participants successfully completed the revised AIP, suggesting that the changes in the revised AIP more closely fit the cognitive abilities of the participants than the existing AIP format. In the current study, only 8% of the participants with schizophrenia were unable to complete the training as compared to 35% in prior experiments.
Armstrong believes that the revised format of the training and testing sessions made the AIP more viable than it was previously, at least in this sample of participants. Although Armstrong found some similarities and differences in the demographics of the participants and the overall cognitive abilities, she believes other methods of testing should be conducted in order to capture the full spectrum of impairments in individuals with schizophrenia. She added, “Future studies using structural and functional neuroimaging methods may provide insight into the neural correlates of these selective memory deficits.”
Armstrong, K., Williams, L. E., Heckers, S. (2012). Revised associative inference paradigm confirms relational memory impairment in schizophrenia. Neuropsychology 26.4: 451-458.
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