Working memory constrains abstraction in schizophrenia

David C. Glahn, Tyrone D. Cannon, Raquel E. Gur, J. Daniel Ragland, Ruben C. Gur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Background: Abstraction has long been considered an area of differential cognitive deficit in schizophrenia, primarily because of patients' poor performance on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST). Yet, the complexity and multidimensional nature of the WCST increases the likelihood that several different cognitive processes, perhaps mediated by different neural systems, are being tapped. Methods: In the current study, the Abstraction and Working Memory (AIM) task was designed to disentangle abstraction and working memory so that the effects of each cognitive domain could be independently analyzed. The AIM task and a battery of neuropsychological tests were administered to 62 patients with schizophrenia and 62 matched healthy volunteers. Results: Whereas patients with schizophrenia demonstrated deficits in simple abstraction, they were disproportionately impaired with the addition of a minimal memory requirement. Conclusions: Group differences on WCST performance appear to be attributable to patients' inability to maintain information over a short delay, before that information is used for more complex cognitive operations. Copyright (C) 2000 Society of Biological Psychiatry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-42
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 15 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Abstraction
  • Frontal lobes
  • Problem solving
  • Schizophrenia
  • Wisconsin Card Sorting Test
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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