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Working Memory Hinders Learning In Schizophrenia

Update Date: Oct 08, 2014 08:52 AM EDT

Working memory could be a source of learning difficulties in people with schizophrenia, suggests a new study. 

Working memory is known to be affected in the millions of people - about 1 percent of the population - who have schizophrenia, but it has been unclear whether that has a specific role in making learning more difficult, said study lead author and Brown University postdoctoral researcher Anne Collins, in the press release.

"We really tend to think of learning as a unitary, single process, but really it is not," said Collins, who along with Brown Professor and co-author Michael Frank in 2012 developed an experimental task and a computational model of cognition that can distinguish the contributions of working memory and reinforcement in the learning process. "We thought we could try to disentangle that here and see if the impairment was in both aspects, or only one of them."

In the new study, Collins and Frank collaborated with schizophrenia experts James Waltz and James Gold of the University of Maryland, to measure the effects of working memory and reinforcement in learning by applying these methods, the press release noted. 

Researchers found that only working memory was a source of impairment. 

The study has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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