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Schizophrenic kids' memory muddle.

Schizophrenia usually develops during late adolescence or early adulthood, but this wide-ranging disruption of thought and emotion sometimes appears among children. Research conducted by Robert Asarnow of the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues indicates that schizophrenic children suffer from attention and memory problems that undermine their ability to communicate with others.

In a series of experiments, Asarnow's group studied a total of 60 schizophrenic children less than 13 years old. Simple motor and perceptual skills remain largely intact among schizophrenic youngsters, but they falter badly on tests requiring rapid mental activity within a set time limit. Such tests include simple arithmetic problems and the recall of short lists of digits. Schizophrenic children also show considerable difficulty in copying a simple shape that they viewed 15 seconds earlier and in identifying a series of letters presented on a screen, each for a fraction of a second.

Struggles on these tests reflect a limited ability to carry information in "working," or short-term, memory, Asarnow contends. This memory deficit undermines effective monitoring of others' responses during social encounters and often results in illogical and disconnected statements, he says.

The UCLA researchers also find that during mental tests the brains of schizophrenic children produce a weaker version of a specific type of electrical activity associated with focused attention among healthy children and adults. Tasks that typically spark surges in electrical activity in one or the other brain hemisphere have no such effect among schizophrenic youngsters, Asarnow adds.

"The right and left hemispheres of the brain don't seem as finely specialized in schizophrenic children, compared with healthy controls," he asserts.
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Title Annotation:show limited recall in tests
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 23, 1992
Words:268
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