Type of Document Master's Thesis Author Auster, Tracey Lauren Author's Email Address email@example.com URN etd-04012013-185947 Title Cognitive Performance as a Predictor of Functional Capacity in Schizophrenia Degree Master of Arts (M.A.) Department Psychology Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Cohen, Alex Committee Chair Copeland, Amy Committee Member Elliott, Emily Committee Member Keywords
Date of Defense 2012-12-04 Availability unrestricted AbstractPrevious literature has demonstrated that persons with schizophrenia suffer from cognitive deficits and struggle with deficits in everyday living skills, two areas of functioning thatare related in some way. Nearly all cognitive domains are affected in schizophrenia, and most of them have been associated with poor functioning. Therefore, a possible link is the existence of an attentional bottleneck where the demands of attentional load and the lack of attentional resources to handle these demands, decreases capacity to carryout everyday living skills. Researchers have suggested the existence of a structural bottleneck that limits individuals’ ability in the use of cognitive resources. This limit is manifested experimentally in an inability to attend to two tasks at once (Ruthruff, Pashler, and Klassan, 2001). A way to examine attentional load is by evaluating performance in different cognitive tasks that vary the amount of cognitive load or cognitive demands needed to perform those tasks.
The primary goals of this project were to: 1) replicate previous findings that individuals with schizophrenia display increased deficits in everyday living skills compared to controls, 2) determine whether individuals with schizophrenia demonstrate exacerbating verbal fluency deficits under higher cognitive (or attentional) load demands compared to controls, and 3) examine whether performance changes under these different cognitive loads are associated with deficits in everyday living skills.
Consistent with previous findings, the results indicate that individuals with schizophrenia perform worse in everyday living skills and have deficits in working memory and verbal fluency. However, the findings also suggest that performance under high cognitive verbal fluency load (used to represent a high attentional load) is difficult for both non-psychiatric controls and individuals with schizophrenia. In addition, our results suggest that verbal fluency performance is not predictive of everyday living skills, regardless of group membership. Interestingly, we found that working memory performance was predictive of everyday living skills capacity at a trend level. We also found some interesting sex differences that suggest verbal fluency may be a more difficult cognitive task for males, regardless if they were in the schizophrenia or non-psychiatric control group.
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