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Sustained attention in children at risk for schizophrenia: Findings with two visual continuous performance tests in a new sample

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In partial replication of an earlier study, 35 children at high risk for schizophrenia, 25 children at high risk for affective disorder, and 53 normal control children from a new sample of 7- to 12-year-old subjects were tested with two new visual continuous performance tests. Response levels and intrasubject variability were analyzed separately. Multivariate analyses on factor scores derived from response levels indicate that “groups” is a significant predictor for a factor reflecting discriminability (or sensitivity) for the more difficult of these tests but not for the less difficult one, and that high risk for schizophrenia is associated with lower performance. Factor scores and multiple regresion analyses were used to dichotomize subjects as to whether or not they are low performance outliers. A significantly larger proportion of subjects from the high risk for schizophrenia group than from the control groups were low performance outliers. Among subjects that developed psychopathology in adolescence, subjects at high risk for schizophrenia were more likely to have contributed low performance outliers early during childhood.

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Correspondence to J. Rutschmann.

Additional information

This research was supported in part by Grant MH 19560 from the National Institute of Mental Health, by grants from the William T. Grant Foundation and the John and Catherine MacDonald Foundation, and by the Department of Mental Hygiene of the State of New York. Computer facilities were supported by Mental Health Clinical Research Center Grant MH 30906. We acknowledge an anonymous reviewer's helpful suggestions for a data reduction strategy, and we wish to thank Drs. David Friedman and Herbert G. Vaughan, Jr., for help with the design of the tasks; Mr. Maurice Rosengarten for designing the reaction switch, Drs. John D. Rainer, Michael Stone, Irving I. Gottesman, and Leonard L. Heston, Mrs. Ulla Hilldoff Adamo, and Mr. Thomas F. J. Adamo for their help with various phases of the diagnostic assessment of the parents; Marilyn Kaplan, C.S.W., for ongoing assessment of the study subjects; Dr. James Hollenberg for programming, Messrs. James Wilson, Jr., and Joseph Gallichio for help with data collection; Drs. Neil Risch, Lawrence Krasnoff, and John C. M. Nee, Messrs. Thomas Chin, Peter AbiBoutros, and Karou Kurosawa, Ms. Simone Roberts and Marietta Bell, and Mrs. Henrietta Wolland for help with various aspects of data analyses and programming; Dr. Elizabeth Squires-Wheeler for invaluable comments during the preparation of the final draft; Mr. Timothy A. Barnum and Ms. Kymberly Carter and Valeria James for help with the preparation of the manuscript.

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Rutschmann, J., Comblatt, B. & Erlenmeyer-Kimling, L. Sustained attention in children at risk for schizophrenia: Findings with two visual continuous performance tests in a new sample. J Abnorm Child Psychol 14, 365–385 (1986).

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  • High Risk
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Normal Control
  • Performance Test