Differential effects of paced and unpaced responding on delayed serial order recall in schizophrenia

S. Kristian Hill*, Ginny B. Griffin, James C. Houk, John A. Sweeney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Working memory for temporal order is a component of working memory that is especially dependent on striatal systems, but has not been extensively studied in schizophrenia. This study was designed to characterize serial order reproduction by adapting a spatial serial order task developed for nonhuman primate studies, while controlling for working memory load and whether responses were initiated freely (unpaced) or in an externally paced format. Clinically stable schizophrenia patients (n = 27) and psychiatrically healthy individuals (n = 25) were comparable on demographic variables and performance on standardized tests of immediate serial order recall (Digit Span, Spatial Span). No group differences were observed for serial order recall when read sequence reproduction was unpaced. However, schizophrenia patients exhibited significant impairments when responding was paced, regardless of sequence length or retention delay. Intact performance by schizophrenia patients during the unpaced condition indicates that prefrontal storage and striatal output systems are sufficiently intact to learn novel response sequences and hold them in working memory to perform serial order tasks. However, retention for newly learned response sequences was disrupted in schizophrenia patients by paced responding, when read-out of each element in the response sequence was externally controlled. The disruption of memory for serial order in paced read-out condition indicates a deficit in frontostriatal interaction characterized by an inability to update working memory stores and deconstruct 'chunked' information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-197
Number of pages6
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Paced responding
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sequential
  • Serial order
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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