Attentional dysfunction of chronic schizophrenia: No association with long-term institutionalization

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Attentional processes play a central role in information selection, which is impaired in schizophrenic patients. In the present study, we attempted to characterize the attentional performance of chronic schizophrenics using a computerized assessment of the multiple components of attentional function. Two comparable samples, consisting, respectively, of out-patients and in-patients, were tested in order to assess the effect of chronic institutionalization. Twenty-four subjects (half in-patients and half out-patients) fulfillling DSM-IV criteria for schizophrenia were examined with a standard computerized battery for the assessment of attention, namely Testbatterie zur Aufmerksamkeitsprufung (TAP). Both groups were impaired on all measures of attentional processing (in terms of both reaction times and number of errors). There were no significant differences in attentional performance between in- and out-patients. In conclusion, the present findings confirm the presence of pervasive attentional dysfunction in chronic schizophrenia; the lack of significant differences in performance between in- and out-patients supports the hypothesis that the cognitive deficits are inherently associated with the illness and cannot be attributed to environmental/social factors.

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