Cognitive Neuroscience Test Reliability and Clinical applications for Schizophrenia (CNTRACs) Consortium

The Cognitive Neuroscience Test Reliability And Clinical applications for Schizophrenia (CNTRACS) Consortium was formed to optimize and provide psychometric data on a set of theoretically motivated tasks from cognitive neuroscience so that they can be used as measures of treatment effects in translational research seeking to improve cognition and clinical and functional outcomes in schizophrenia. This project was developed as an outgrowth of the CNTRICS initiative and in response to RFA-MH-08-090, titled "Adapting Basic Cognitive Measures for Clinical Assessment of Schizophrenia." We have brought together a collaborative "translation" team that represents significant expertise from the many fields necessary for the success of this endeavor, including both basic and clinical cognitive neuroscientists, psychometricians, and clinical trials specialists. The current project is a logical and needed extension of the CNTRICS initiative that completes the development path for paradigms designed to assess four of the constructs identified as being ripe for translation in the first CNTRICS meeting. Thus, the current project will result in four tasks with proven psychometric characteristics as well as excellent construct validity. In addition, the resulting tasks will be tolerable to patients, practical in duration, and freely available for download to clinical investigators.

The four domains we are focusing upon include:

  • Goal Maintenance: The Dot Probe Expectancy Task (DPX), a variation on the Expectancy AX-CPT
  • Relational Encoding and Retrieval: The Relational and Item Specific Encoding Task (RISE)
  • Gain Control: The Contrast-Contrast Effect Task (CCE)
  • Visual Integration: The Jitter Orientation Visual Integration Task (JOVI)

We have chosen to focus on four constructs that span a range of cognitive processing domains that have been studied in schizophrenia, including visual perception (gain control and visual integration), episodic memory (item-specific and relational encoding and retrieval) and executive functions (goal maintenance). Our aims were to validate (in both individuals with schizophrenia and comparison participants) optimized versions of the paradigms that assess our four constructs of interest, and to examine the relationship of task performance to clinical and functional outcomes in schizophrenia. By optimization, we mean examining modifications on already validated paradigms that are designed to: 1) minimize task length; 2) simplify task administration across multiple sites; 3) maximize sensitivity and selectivity in assessing the specific cognitive mechanisms of interest; and 4) enhance reliability and minimize floor and ceiling effects. By validation, we mean ensuring that such optimizations designed to enhance the psychometric properties of the task do not alter its construct validity.