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Keywords:

  • schizophrenia;
  • methodology;
  • cognitive impairment;
  • review of the literature

Objective

In healthy controls, the emotional charge of stimuli influences how well stimuli are remembered. Although patients with schizophrenia (SCZ) have deficits in memory and in emotional processing, studies on emotional memory modulation (EMM) in SCZ report contradictory results. The aim of this review was to investigate whether methodological differences could explain these contradictory results.

Method

We reviewed the literature to investigate whether task differences could explain these differences. Due to the methodological differences, a meta-analysis was not possible.

Results

Fourteen studies were identified that used a total of 22 tasks to study EMM in patients with SCZ. Two-thirds of the tasks showed no differences in EMM between patients with SCZ and healthy controls. Differences in EMM were found more often when long-term compared to short-term memory was measured, when memory instructions were implicit instead of explicit and when stronger emotional stimuli were used. An overall memory deficit or the mode of retrieval was not related to EMM.

Conclusion

Deficits in EMM in long-term compared to short-term memory point toward impaired emotional modulation of memory consolidation. Reduced EMM on implicit, but not explicit, tasks suggests a deficit in unconsciously using emotional content to modulate memory.