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Allostatic working memory processing in schizophrenia: Human and animal model coherence

S. Karger AG
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1159/000095170
  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Psychology


The most evident symptoms of schizophrenia are severe impairment of cognitive functions like attention, abstract reasoning and working memory. The latter has been defined as the ability to maintain and manipulate on-line a limited amount of information. Whereas several studies show that working memory processes are impaired in schizophrenia, the specificity of this deficit is still unclear. Results obtained with a new paradigm, involving visuospatial, dynamic and static working memory processing, suggest that schizophrenic patients rely on a specific compensatory strategy. An animal model of schizophrenia with a transient deficit in glutathione during the development reveals similar substitutive processing, masking the impairment in working memory functions in specific test conditions only. Taken together, these results show coherence between working memory deficits in schizophrenic patients and in animal models. More generally, it is possible to consider that the pathological state may be interpreted as a reduced homeostatic reserve. However, this may be balanced in specific situations by efficient allostatic strategies. Thus, the pathological condition would remain latent in several situations, due to such allostatic regulations. However, to maintain a performance based on highly specific strategies requires in turn specific conditions, limitating adaptative resources in humans and in animals. In summary, we suggest that the psychological and physical load to maintain this rigid allostatic state is very high in patients and animal subjects.

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