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Measuring the capacity for auditory system plasticity: An examination of performance gains during initial exposure to auditory-targeted cognitive training in schizophrenia



Auditory-Targeted Cognitive Training (ATCT), which aims to improve auditory information processing efficiency, has shown great promise for remediating cognitive deficits in schizophrenia (SZ). However, there is substantial heterogeneity in the degree of cognitive gains made during ATCT, and some patients show negligible benefit after completing therapeutic doses of training. Identifying individual differences that can be measured early in the course of ATCT and that predict subsequent cognitive benefits from the intervention is therefore important. The present study calculated a variety of performance metrics during the initial hour of exposure to ATCT Sound Sweeps, a frequency discrimination time-order judgment task, and investigated the relationships of these metrics to demographic, clinical, and cognitive characteristics of SZ patients. Thirty-seven SZ outpatients completed measures of auditory attention, working memory, verbal memory, and executive functioning, followed by 1h of Sound Sweeps training. Performance metrics, calculated after the first training level, the first training stage (Levels 1-4), and the entire hour of training included baseline and best auditory processing speed (APS) scores, as well as percent improvement in APS after training. The number of training levels completed by each participant was also calculated. Baseline and best APS correlated with performance in all cognitive domains, whereas APS improvements only correlated with verbal memory. Number of training levels completed was marginally associated with auditory attention only.


Sound Sweeps performance correlates with a range of neurocognitive abilities. APS improvement may provide a particularly sensitive index of "plasticity potential" within the neural network underlying verbal learning and memory.

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