Further evidence that cognitive deficits appear in individuals at risk for psychosis well before the first episode of acute psychosis appears comes from a study published online in Schizophrenia Research. Researchers in the Department of Psychiatry at the Istanbul Faculty of Medicine in Turkey compared cognitive functions of 52 individuals at ultra high risk (UHR) for psychosis, 53 patients who had a first episode of psychosis (FES), their 30 healthy siblings (who were considered to be at familial high risk, FHR), and 35 healthy controls with no familial risk.
The researchers found that the FES group had worse neuropsychological performance than did controls on all of the cognitive domains measured, and the UHR group had worse performance on three of them—verbal learning, attention, and working memory—than did controls. They also found that individuals with familial risk had worse performance on executive functions and measures of attention than did the control group. In addition, the FES group had lower global composite scores than did the UHR group and scored worse on a measure of sustained attention than did their siblings in the FHR group.
The researchers concluded that their findings “suggest that cognitive deficits in schizophrenia may start before the first episode, since cognitive functions were similar among FHR, UHR, and FES groups. Our aim as a next step is to detect cognitive predictors of transition to psychosis in both groups in a study with a longitudinal design and with larger sample size.”
For research on improving cognitive function in patients with schizophrenia, see the Psychiatric News article, “Optimism Grows About Potential to Aid Schizophrenia Cognition.” For a review of assessment and treatment issues in schizophrenia, see American Psychiatric Publishing’s Clinical Manual for Treatment of Schizophrenia. And for a recent study on this topic, see the American Journal of Psychiatry report “Anatomical and Functional Brain Abnormalities in Drug-Naïve First-Episode Schizophrenia.”