Deficits in visual working-memory capacity and general cognition in African Americans with psychosis

Samuel R. Mathias, Emma E.M. Knowles, Jennifer Barrett, Tamara Beetham, Olivia Leach, Sebastiano Buccheri, Katrina Aberizk, John Blangero, Russell A. Poldrack, David C. Glahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


On average, patients with psychosis perform worse than controls on visual change-detection tasks, implying that psychosis is associated with reduced capacity of visual working memory (WM). In the present study, 79 patients diagnosed with various psychotic disorders and 166 controls, all African Americans, completed a change-detection task and several other neurocognitive measures. The aims of the study were to (1) determine whether we could observe a between-group difference in performance on the change-detection task in this sample; (2) establish whether such a difference could be specifically attributed to reduced WM capacity (k); and (3) estimate k in the context of the general cognitive deficit in psychosis. Consistent with previous studies, patients performed worse than controls on the change-detection task, on average. Bayesian hierarchical cognitive modeling of the data suggested that this between-group difference was driven by reduced k in patients, rather than differences in other psychologically meaningful model parameters (guessing behavior and lapse rate). Using the same modeling framework, we estimated the effect of psychosis on k while controlling for general intellectual ability (g, obtained from the other neurocognitive measures). The results suggested that reduced k in patients was stronger than predicted by the between-group difference in g. Moreover, a mediation analysis suggested that the relationship between psychosis and g (i.e., the general cognitive deficit) was mediated by k. The results were consistent with the idea that reduced k is a specific deficit in psychosis, which contributes to the general cognitive deficit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-106
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia research
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian estimation
  • Change detection
  • IQ
  • Psychosis
  • Working memory
  • Working memory capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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