Gesture imitation in schizophrenia.

Matthews N, Gold BJ, Sekuler R, Park S
Schizophr Bull. 2013 39 (1): 94-101

PMID: 21765171 · PMCID: PMC3523902 · DOI:10.1093/schbul/sbr062

Recent evidence suggests that individuals with schizophrenia (SZ) are impaired in their ability to imitate gestures and movements generated by others. This impairment in imitation may be linked to difficulties in generating and maintaining internal representations in working memory (WM). We used a novel quantitative technique to investigate the relationship between WM and imitation ability. SZ outpatients and demographically matched healthy control (HC) participants imitated hand gestures. In Experiment 1, participants imitated single gestures. In Experiment 2, they imitated sequences of 2 gestures, either while viewing the gesture online or after a short delay that forced the use of WM. In Experiment 1, imitation errors were increased in SZ compared with HC. Experiment 2 revealed a significant interaction between imitation ability and WM. SZ produced more errors and required more time to imitate when that imitation depended upon WM compared with HC. Moreover, impaired imitation from WM was significantly correlated with the severity of negative symptoms but not with positive symptoms. In sum, gesture imitation was impaired in schizophrenia, especially when the production of an imitation depended upon WM and when an imitation entailed multiple actions. Such a deficit may have downstream consequences for new skill learning.

MeSH Terms (16)

Adult Antipsychotic Agents Female Gestures Humans Imitative Behavior Learning Male Memory, Short-Term Middle Aged Mirror Neurons Neuropsychological Tests Schizophrenia Severity of Illness Index Social Perception Time Factors

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