Attention is impaired in schizophrenia. Early attention components include orienting and alerting, as well as executive control networks. Previous studies have shown mainly executive control deficits, while few of them found orienting and alerting abnormalities. Here we explore the different attentive networks, their modulation and interactions in patients with schizophrenia.
Twenty-one schizophrenic patients (DSMIV), compared to 21 controls, performed a modified version of the Attention Network Task, in which an orienting paradigm (with valid, invalid and no cues) was combined with a flanker task (congruent/incongruent) and an alerting signal (tone/no tone), to assess orienting, executive control and alerting networks independently.
Patients showed an abnormal alerting effect and slower overall reaction time compared to controls. Moreover, there was an interaction between orienting and alerting: patients are helped more than controls by the alerting signal in a valid orientation to solve the incongruent condition.
These results suggest that patients with schizophrenia have altered alerting abilities. However, the orienting and alerting cues interact to improve their attention performance in the resolution of conflict, creating possibilities for cognitive remediation strategies.