International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 3 Num. 2 - December 2003


Latent Inhibition as a Model of Schizophrenia: From Learning to Psychopathology [La Inhibici?n Latente Como Modelo de la Esquizofrenia: Del Aprendizaje a la Psicopatolog?a]

Volume 3 Num. 2 - December 2003 - Pages 251-266


Roberto ?lvarez, Luis G. de la Casa and Pilar S?nchez


In schizophrenia, attentional processes may be altered and become the basis of another symptomatology such as delirium and hallucinations. One of the experimental approaches to the study of attentional processes employs the phenomenon of latent inhibition. Behaviourally, latent inhibition is expressed as a delay or difficulty in learning the relationship between stimuli due to prior experience of the subject with one of the inconsequential stimuli. This learning phenomenon fulfils an adaptive function that enables the organism to release attention from irrelevant stimuli. Schizophrenics do not show this latent inhibition effect due to attentional alterations, that is, they have selective attention difficulties. Clinical data coincide with results obtained from both animals and normal subjects and with data from psychopharmacological studies. Most of the studies show that the dopaminergic system plays an important role in latent inhibition and therefore would support the dopaminergic hypothesis of schizophrenia. Furthermore, latent inhibition is used as a model to evaluate the mechanisms of antipsychotic drug action, as well as for the study of the aetiology of schizophrenia. Finally, latent inhibition opens a line of research in cognitive inhibition processes in schizotypy and the possibility of studying other psychopathological disorders. The model proposed is based on experimental, neurochemical and clinical premises that make it a promising topic of future for research.

Key words:

selective attention, schizophrenia, latent inhibition, antipsychotic drugs, latent inhibition model, conditioning, schizotypy.

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