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51. Pupillary dilation in individuals with schizophrenia: Who successfully increases effort allocation in response to increasing demands?
Pupillary responses are considered a biomarker of cognitive effort exertion. Reduced pupil dilation has been associated with more severe motivational deficits in individuals with schizophrenia, suggesting such individuals are either unable (lack capacity) or unwilling (lack motivation) to increase effort with increasing task demands. In the present study, pupillary responses were recorded during easy and difficult conditions on a cognitive effort task in 60 individuals with schizophrenia and moderate-to-high negative symptoms. Pupillary difference scores were computed as the median difference in dilation between hard and easy conditions. Positive scores indicate greater effort allocated to the difficult condition. Negative scores indicate greater effort allocated to the easy condition. We used a tertile split of pupillary difference scores to examine whether groups (positive responders, minimal responders, and negative responders) differed in cognitive ability, functional capacity, defeatist beliefs, and negative symptoms. The positive responders had higher overall cognition (p < .05) and trended toward lower negative symptoms (p = .06). The three groups did not differ in defeatist beliefs or functional capacity (ps > .20). These findings indicate that both ability and willingness may contribute to effort exertion, as measured by this physiological indicator.