Selective deficit in spatial memory strategies contrast to intact response strategies in patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders tested in a virtual navigation task
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Spatial memory is impaired among persons with schizophrenia (SCZ). However, different strategies may be used to solve most spatial memory and navigation tasks. This study investigated the hypothesis that participants with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders (SSD) would demonstrate differential impairment during acquisition and retrieval of target locations when using a hippocampal-dependent spatial strategy, but not a response strategy, which is more associated with caudate function. Healthy control (CON) and SSD participants were tested using the 4-on-8 virtual maze (4/8VM), a virtual navigation task designed to differentiate between participants' use of spatial and response strategies. Consistent with our predictions, SSD participants demonstrated a differential deficit such that those who navigated using a spatial strategy made more errors and took longer to locate targets. In contrast, SSD participants who spontaneously used a response strategy performed as well as CON participants. The differential pattern of spatial-memory impairment in SSD provides only indirect support for underlying hippocampal dysfunction. These findings emphasize the importance of considering individual strategies when investigating SSD-related memory and navigation performance. Future cognitive intervention protocols may harness SSD participants' intact ability to navigate using a response strategy and/or train the deficient ability to navigate using a spatial strategy to improve navigation and memory abilities in participants with SSD.
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