Name relearning in elderly patients with schizophrenia: episodic and temporary, not semantic and permanent
Introduction . Recent reports of lexical-semantic deficits in patients with schizophrenia (Laws, Al-Uzri, & Mortimer, 2000; Laws, McKenna, & Kondel, 1998) suggest that younger patients have problems accessing intact memories and older patients show apparent “loss” of the lexical-semantic memory representations themselves. Methods . Picture naming for everyday items was examined in a unique series of elderly patients with schizophrenia ( n = 10) with a mean illness duration of 45.5 years; and compared with that in patients with probable Alzheimer's disease ( n = 18) and elderly healthy controls ( n = 27). Naming consistency across time was used as an indicator of whether the schizophrenic patients had difficulty accessing representations or a loss of the representations themselves. Finally, we examined the ability of the schizophrenic patients to relearn the names of unnamed items across four weekly retraining sessions and to retain them at a one month follow-up. Results . The elderly schizophrenic patients were as anomic as patients with probable Alzheimer's disease. Consistency analysis revealed that the patients had storage deficits. Analysis of patient error types was consistent with a semantic deficit. Finally, the schizophrenic patients showed significant improvement with relearning, but this was not maintained at follow-up. Conclusions . Elderly patients with schizophrenia show a profound and stable anomia. Although name relearning induced some significant gains in naming, these were short-term and reflect episodic rather than semantic reinstatement of representations. Implications for cognitive remediation are discussed.