Implicit motor sequence learning in schizophrenia and in old age : reduced performance only in the third session
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences . Biomedical Sciences
Experimental brain research. - Berlin
, p. 3531-3542
University of Antwerp
Although there still is conflicting evidence whether schizophrenia is a neurodegenerative disease, cognitive changes in schizophrenia resemble those observed during normal aging. In contrast to extensively demonstrated deficits in explicit learning, it remains unclear whether implicit sequence learning is impaired in schizophrenia and normal aging. Implicit sequence learning was investigated using a computerized drawing task, the implicit pattern learning task (IPLT) in 30 stable patients with schizophrenia, 30 age-matched controls and 30 elderly subjects on two consecutive days and after 1 week (sessions 1, 2 and 3). Fixed sequence trials were intermixed with random trials, and sequence learning was assessed by subtraction of the response time in fixed sequence trials from random trials. Separate analyses of response times and movement accuracy (i.e., directional errors) were performed. Explicit sequence knowledge was assessed using three different awareness tasks. All groups learned equally during sessions 1 and 2. In session 3, control subjects showed significantly larger learning scores than patients with schizophrenia (p = .012) and elderly subjects (p = .021). This group difference is mainly expressed in movement time and directional errors. Patients with schizophrenia demonstrated less subjective sequence awareness, and both patients with schizophrenia and elderly subjects had less explicit sequence recall. Explicit recall was positively correlated with task performance in all groups. After a short 24 h interval, all subjects showed similar improvements in implicit sequence learning. However, no benefit of prior task exposure 1 week later was observed in patients with schizophrenia and elderly subjects compared to controls. As patients with schizophrenia and elderly both display less explicit sequence recall, the control group superiority after 1 week could be explained by an explicit learning component. The few patients with schizophrenia and elderly subjects who had some sequence recall could possibly utilize this explicit knowledge to improve their task performance but did this by distinct mechanisms.