Cognitive Help for Schizophrenics

Science News, April 11, 1992 | Go to article overview

Cognitive Help for Schizophrenics


Training that improves attention, memory and basic reasoning skills may play a key role in treating many cases of schizophrenia, according to Swiss researchers. Their findings, and comments on their work by several other researchers, appear in the current SCHIZOPHRENIA BULLETIN.

Schiziphrenia consists of recurrent psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, and persistent deficit symptoms, such as emotional unresponsiveness and apathy (SN: 3/21/91, p.181). Studies suggest that schizophrenia also interferes with the ability to concentrate on and think about incoming information, but no consensus exists on the exact nature of this problem.

The Swiss approach of "cognitive rehabilitation" for schizophrenics differs from more typical programs, which focus on teaching social skills. In the last decade, psychiatrist Hans D. Brenner of the University of Bern and his colleagues have conducted several studies of hospitalized schizophrenics who completed a three-month program that first addresses simple thinking abilities. For instances, the researchers give patients a stack of cards, each of which displays a number of geometric form, a color patch and a day of the week. Patients learn to sort the cards by one or more attributes. Training then advances to word problems and games modeled after "20 questions." Next, patients learn to interpret the meaning of social interactions shown on slides, practice listening to and conversing with others and learn more complex social skills. …

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