'Noisy' memory in schizophrenia

The inability to ignore irrelevant stimuli underlies the impaired working memory and cognition often experienced by individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, reports a new study in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

Our brains are usually good at focusing on the information that we are trying to learn and filtering out the “noise” or thoughts that aren’t relevant. However, memory impairment in schizophrenia may be related in part to a problem with this filtering process, which Dr. Teal Eich at Columbia University and her colleagues studied.

“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,” Eich explained.

The researchers recruited patients with schizophrenia and a control group of healthy volunteers to complete an item recognition task in the laboratory while undergoing a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan. In particular, they focused on analyzing potential activation differences in the ventro-lateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), a region of the brain implicated in working memory.

The design of the task allowed for the assessment of the various components of working memory: 1) maintaining the memory itself, 2) inhibiting or ignoring irrelevant information, and 3) during memory retrieval, controlling the interference of irrelevant information.

While simply maintaining the memory, both groups showed a similar degree of activation in the VLPFC. During the inhibition phase, VLPFC activity is expected to decrease, which was indeed observed in the healthy group, but not in the patients. Finally, during interference control, patients performed worse and showed increased VLPFC activation compared to the healthy volunteers. Overall, the patients showed altered VLPFC functioning and significant impairments in their ability to control working 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. “This result may provide valuable insights into the potential brain mechanisms underlying the reasons why these affected individuals are unable to control or put out of mind certain thoughts or ideas.”


I think this is really true for me ! Like if im trying to read a book and I end up thinking about five things. instead of reading. It makes it hard to get anything done

A good stimulant might help with that. I think it’s add related personally. Unfortunately that can make psychosis worse but that’s what I think that is

Totally. Is like reading is in-one-ear and out-the-other on boring. I try to take notes or do the practice examples on computer software at same time to retain it…

Is more to it for me. I do have some cognitive impairment like tip of tongue taken away so works better to use lists.

Is more involved here though as I was selective amnesia victim, one topic amnesia like PTSD…

Still work just fine in life/death work and independently living without messing up very often.

This fits me to a T.

Right before my first psychotic break I had these symptoms. I remember complaining about not being able to think. Being stuck in my head, and having lots of anxiety. The doctor, never mentioned to me that I might be at high risk for developing psychosis. He just wrote me a script for lithium and sent me on my way. I’m assuming that he knew I was at high risk since lithium is one of the drugs that scientists think can stall the onset of psychosis, but if he had told me that I was at risk I would have quickly removed myself from all things stressful and returned home to my family and taken things very easy.
They really didn’t have any early intervention strategies back then.

When I think of all the times I’ve said something out loud that could be misunderstood as pertaining to someone other than myself I begin to understand that not everything I have heard others say out loud necessarily pertained to me. I have heard a lot of things that may or may not be relevant to me or not and it’s difficult to accurately remember everything about the past.