This chapter focuses on the viability of working memory impairment as an endophenotypic marker of a schizophrenia diathesis. It begins with an introduction of the construct of working memory. It follows with a review of the operational criteria for defining an endophenotype. Research findings regarding the working memory performance of schizophrenia and schizophrenia-spectrum patients, first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients and healthy controls, are reviewed in terms of the criteria for being considered an endophenotypic marker. Special attention is paid to specific components of the working memory deficit (namely, encoding, maintenance, and manipulation), in terms of which aspects are likely to be the best candidates for endophenotypes. We consider the extant literature regarding working memory performance in bipolar disorder and major depression in order to address the issue of relative specificity to schizophrenia. Despite some unresolved issues, it appears that working memory impairment is a very promising candidate for an endophenotypic marker of a schizophrenia diathesis but not for mood disorders. Throughout this chapter, we identify future directions for research in this exciting and dynamic area of research and evaluate the contribution of working memory research to our understanding of schizophrenia.
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