On Nov. 18 as part of the Wesleyan Faculty Lunch Talk series, Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology, spoke about “Thinking Skills in Schizophrenia: Can They Be Improved, and If So, How?” Kurtz said people with schizophrenia have cognitive deficits in attention and memory, which seem to predict the degree to which they are able to participate in community activities, make friends, attend a work skills or social skills program, or have stronger performance-based functions such as making phone calls, organizing, or making a doctor’s appointment. “This suggests that if we were to elevate cognition, we might be able to elevate function.”
Kurtz discussed results from his recent study that evaluated how verbal and visual mnemonics (which are strategies for improving difficulties in memory) might help in schizophrenia. In assessing verbal mnemonics, he asked test subjects to remember a series of words by placing them into a narrative, or story. In assessing visual mnemonics, he took the same set of words, but asked subjects to imagine the words in their mind. Sixty-one participants took part in the study and were randomly assigned to the verbal strategy, the visual strategy, or a non-trained control group. “There’s some indication that all people with schizophrenia have some sort of cognitive deficit, some very mild, some very pronounced,” Kurtz said. “It’s very common.”
Kurtz explained that the topic of schizophrenia was described as early as 1911 by scientist Eugene Bleuler, author of Dementia Praecox or the Group of Schizophrenias.
Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 introduced Kurtz to the audience and led a short Q&A at the conclusion of the talk.