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Working Memory Span and Motor and Cognitive Speed in Schizophrenia

Brébion, Gildas PhD* †; David, Anthony S. FRCPsych, MD*; Jones, Hugh M. MRCPsych*; Pilowsky, Lyn S. PhD, MRCPsych*

Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology: June 2009 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 101-108
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e3181a722a0
Original Studies

Objective The aim of this study was to investigate the verbal working memory deficit and decrease of motor and cognitive speed in patients with schizophrenia, and to clarify their associations with negative and depressive symptomatology.

Methods Forty patients with schizophrenia and 41 healthy control individuals were administered the backward digit span to assess the working memory capacity, along with 3 tests of processing speed.

Results Patients demonstrated reduced backward digit span, as well as decreased motor and cognitive speed. Regression analyses indicated that the backward digit span was associated with cognitive speed. It was not associated with either negative or depressive symptoms. Decreased processing speed was unrelated to negative symptoms, but the depression score was significantly associated with the cognitive speed measure.

Conclusions Working memory and processing speed seem to share a cognitive component. Depression, but not negative symptoms, affects processing speed, especially by decreasing cognitive speed.

*Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK

Unit of Research and Development, Sant Joan de Déu-Serveis de Salut Mental, Barcelona, Spain

The first author was funded by grants from the Leverhulme Trust and from the Alexander Gralnick Grant for Research on Schizophrenia, American Psychological Foundation.

Reprints: Gildas Brébion, PhD, Unit of Research and Development, Sant Joan de Déu-Serveis de Salut Mental, CAntoni Pujadas 42, 08830 Sant Boi deLlobregat, Barcelona, Spain (e-mail:

Received for publication September 17, 2008; accepted March 4, 2009

We are sad to report the untimely death of Prof Pilowsky.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.