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Examination of Affective and Cognitive Interference in Schizophrenia and Relation to Symptoms

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The nature of emotion deficits in schizophrenia and anhedonia is still unclear, and understanding the nature of these deficits could help improve treatment of chronic symptoms and functional disability. An important mechanism in emotional functioning is attention to affective information. People with schizophrenia (n = 48) and a nonpsychiatric comparison group (n = 28) completed an affective interference task, a task used to assess attention to affective information. Given that the affective interference task also involves prepotent response inhibition, participants also completed a very similar, but nonaffective, cognitive interference task that involves prepotent inhibition but does not require attention to affective information. Results revealed that people with schizophrenia exhibited decreased affective interference on trials with a shorter length of time between the onset of the cue and onset of the target but increased cognitive interference at all time lengths between the cue and target onsets used in the study. In addition, decreased affective interference was associated with increased anhedonia and increased reports of wanting to ignore positive emotions. In contrast, increased cognitive interference was associated with increased communication disturbances and alogia. Overall, these results suggest that there may be a decrease in attention to affective information in schizophrenia and that affective interference is related to anhedonia. At the same time, these results provide further evidence of cognitive control prepotent inhibition deficits in schizophrenia, which are related to communication disturbances and alogia.

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