Neural connectivity and memory in schizophrenia patients and healthy controls

Schizophrenia is a brain disease that affects one per cent of Canadians — more than 300,000 people — causing hallucinations, disordered thought and memory dysfunction. Two specific types of memory are known to be affected in schizophrenia: working memory, or the ability to temporarily store and manipulate information (e.g. remembering a phone number until you can write it down); and source memory – the ability to recall where a memory, idea or piece of information came from (e.g. remembering that it was your sister who told you that Oslo is the capital of Norway). Paul Metzak is measuring brain activity during these two types of memory in both healthy volunteers and schizophrenia patients. His goal is to see how differences in activity in various areas of the brain can lead to selective memory impairments. He is using newly-developed statistical tools to look at how networks of brain areas interact to give rise to successful remembering. These tools also enable him to determine how the different components of successful remembering are affected in the schizophrenic brain – whether memory impairment arises from a failure in storing the memory properly, or from an inability to retrieve the correct item once it has already been stored. By identifying the dysfunctional components of brain activity that give rise to memory disorders in schizophrenia, Metzak’s research provides a vital first step on the road to improving memory problems. This work could lead to the development of strategies, therapies, and techniques that can minimize the impact of memory deficiencies in the day-to-day life of patients suffering from these impairments.