New paper just published: Confident vs. not-confident errors indicate a functional dissociation of working memory encoding vs. maintenance deficits in Schizophrenia,

Even though extensively investigated, the nature of working memory (WM) deficits in patients with schizophrenia (PSZ) is not yet fully understood. In particular, the contribution of different WM sub-processes to the severe WM deficit observed in PSZ is a matter of debate. So far, most research has focused on impaired WM maintenance. By analyzing different types of errors in a spatial delayed response task (DRT), we have recently demonstrated that incorrect yet confident responses (which we labeled as false memory errors) rather than incorrect/not-confident responses reflect failures of WM encoding, which was also impaired in PSZ. In the present study, we provide further evidence for a functional dissociation between confident and not-confident errors by manipulating the demands on WM maintenance, i.e., the length over which information has to be maintained in WM. Furthermore, we investigate whether these functionally distinguishable WM processes are impaired in PSZ. Twenty-four PSZ and 24 demographically matched healthy controls (HC) performed a spatial DRT in which the length of the delay period was varied between 1, 2, 4, and 6 s. In each trial, participants also rated their level of response confidence. Across both groups, longer delays led to increased rates of incorrect/not-confident responses, while incorrect/confident responses were not affected by delay length. This functional dissociation provides additional support for our proposal that false memory errors (i.e., confident errors) reflect problems at the level of WM encoding, while not-confident errors reflect failures of WM maintenance. Schizophrenic patients showed increased numbers of both confident and not-confident errors, suggesting that both sub-processes of WM—encoding and maintenance—are impaired in schizophrenia. Combined with the delay length-dependent functional dissociation, we propose that these impairments in schizophrenic patients are functionally distinguishable.