Behavioral changes following daily practice of saccade tasks in schizophrenia
Moore, Madison Nell
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People with schizophrenia show impairment in tasks requiring executive control, like inhibition. A simple test of inhibition is the antisaccade task, which requires a glance towards the mirror image of a peripheral cue. The goal of this study is to determine how practice on the antisaccade task changes performance on that task and on related tasks known to assess executive control. Participants with schizophrenia and healthy comparison subjects were assigned a single saccade task to practice daily - either antisaccades or prosaccades (glances towards a peripheral cue) - over a two-week period. Executive control was evaluated at pre- and post-test using two tasks: an ocular motor delayed response (ODR) task to measure changes due to practice on a different, but related, saccade task, and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) to evaluate whether changes in executive control could generalize beyond saccade tasks. Preliminary results suggest antisaccade practice resulted in modest antisaccade improvement for both normal and schizophrenia groups. Prosaccade practice did not affect prosaccade performance (due to a ceiling effect in both groups). Over the trials, the normal antisaccade practice group showed improvement across both the saccade specific (ODR) and non-saccade specific (WCST) executive function tasks. The SZ practice groups show little evidence of change across time, with the exception of the SZ antisaccade practice group showing slightly better ODR performance and the SZ prosaccade group perhaps showing a slight decrease in performance on ODR. Initial results from this study suggest that saccadic performance is malleable within certain parameters. Specifically, it appears that behavior (and potentially its neural underpinnings) may be more malleable in healthy people than in people with schizophrenia. Although the gains are modest at this point, it is interesting to observe that practice on one executive function task could potentially be associated with gains on related tasks. This result has implications for aiding or improving behavior and brain function using behavioral training techniques.