Research Article| Volume 32, ISSUE 9, P739-755, November 01, 1992

Loss of the Kamin blocking effect in acute but not chronic schizophrenics

  • Steven H. Jones
    Address reprint requests to Dr. Steven H. Jones, Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London, England, SE5 8AF.
    From the Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, England
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  • Jeffrey A. Gray
    From the Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, England
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  • David R. Hemsley
    From the Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, England
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 The additional help of the Tregaskis Bequest of the University of London, with equipment and subject costs, is gratefully acknowledged. The authors would like to thank Dr. Silverman of St. Bernard's Hospital, Ealing, and Drs Bergmann, Cutting, and Jacoby of the Bethlem and Maudsley Joint Hospitals for permission to approach patients under their care.
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      Differences between research diagnostic criteria (RDC)-diagnosed acute and chronic schizophrenics and normal controls were studied using a Kamin blocking procedure. Blocking is an established animal learning procedure, thought by some researchers to reflect selective attention; decreased blocking indicates increased processing of irrelevant stimuli. It was predicted that this pattern would be obtained in acute schizophrenics, tested soon after admission, for two reasons: (1) evidence from previous clinical studies indicates that acute schizophrenics are more aware of nonsalient aspects of their environment than controls; and (2) blocking is disrupted in animals in a hyperdopaminergic state and restored by neuroleptic medication. This was the case: acute, but not chronic, schizophrenics showed disrupted blocking. This disruption was especially clear in those acute schizophrenics tested within 2 weeks of hospital admission. By the second test session (in a cross-over design), there was some evidence of normalization in performance in the acute schizophrenics. These findings are considered with regard to the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia.
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