Thursday, June 25, 2009

Schizophrenic's 'Automatic Pilot' Still Works, But Processing New Information Causes Problems

The point is that a great way to understand "normal" is to understand the mechanism of outliers. If the problem is seeing the signal in the noise, then clarifying the signal should help. That's how Print might fit in. There are few things like well designed Print that sits still to clarify a signal.

Schizophrenic's 'Automatic Pilot' Still Works, But Processing New Information Causes Problems:
"ScienceDaily (June 24, 2009) — Answering a phone call while cooking dinner ... walking to work while texting ... driving while listening to the radio -- all without having to think about it. After plenty of practice, people can do a lot of things on automatic pilot and simultaneously. However, for people with schizophrenia that is a different story. Dutch researcher Tamar van Raalten investigated whether a disruption to the automation process, learning by repetition to do something on automatic pilot, explains why people with schizophrenia can process less information. She established that it is not the automation process but the processing of new information that causes problems.
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Normally your working memory is then fully active. Yet the more the tests were repeated, the lower the brain activity in the areas involved in working memory function. This activity was also not compensated for by other parts of the brain involved in (long-term) memory. By automating the letter series, the study subjects therefore released working memory capacity so that it could once again process new information.
. . .

Patients with schizophrenia can, however, process less information than healthy people. Their brains function less efficiently. It was expected that a faltering working memory in schizophrenia patients ensured that automation did not proceed well, as a result of which they could not release working memory capacity. However, tests on schizophrenia patients revealed that after training the brain activity decreased in the same manner as was the case for healthy study subjects. Although the working memory does not function well in schizophrenic patients, the automation of tasks proceeded without problems. It might therefore be expected that schizophrenia patients could also more easily perform a second task besides the first, automated task. Yet the released capacity of the working memory could not be used for a new task.

Following this 'surprise' result Van Raalten investigated where the problem could possibly be located. During new tests she discovered that the working memory in schizophrenia patients mainly struggled with the processing of information that continually changed. Consequently, schizophrenic patients may have more of a tendency to adopt automatic strategies in circumstances that demand flexible behaviour. This inability to satisfactorily process new information can lead to stereotypical behaviours, which are an important characteristic of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

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