BACKGROUND - Attentional abnormalities may lie at the core of cognitive symptoms in schizophrenia, but it is unclear how they relate to symptoms. The major aim of our study was to understand the relation between spatial attention and clinical symptoms from acute to chronic state.
METHODS - Thirty-six acutely psychotic schizophrenia patients and 42 matched control subjects were assessed on three spatial attention measures: target location detection, interference (concurrent inhibition of distractor), and negative priming (subsequent inhibition of distractor). Symptoms were assessed by the Positive and Negative Syndrome Assessment Scale. Four months later, the same subjects were re-tested, and symptoms were re-assessed.
RESULTS - Symptoms were significantly reduced at the follow-up. Schizophrenia patients were slower at detecting target location than control subjects, but they improved significantly over time. Schizophrenia patients and control subjects did not differ on the interference task. Negative priming was abolished during acute psychosis, but 4 months later it was restored. Positive symptoms were correlated with reduced negative priming but not with interference, nor with target detection. Negative priming during acute psychosis was significantly correlated with the clinical symptoms at the follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS - These results suggest that reduced negative priming may be associated with increased clinical, symptoms especially the positive symptoms.