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Although cognitive deficits in patients with schizophrenia are rooted early in development, the impact of psychosis on the course of cognitive functioning remains unclear. In this study a nested case-control design was used to examine the relationship between emerging psychosis and the course of cognition in individuals ascertained as clinical high-risk (CHR) who developed psychosis during the study (CHR + T).
Fifteen CHR + T subjects were administered a neurocognitive battery at baseline and post-psychosis onset (8.04 months, s.d. = 10.26). CHR + T subjects were matched on a case-by-case basis on age, gender, and time to retest with a group of healthy comparison subjects (CNTL, n = 15) and two groups of CHR subjects that did not transition: (1) subjects matched on medication treatment (i.e. antipsychotics and antidepressants) at both baseline and retesting (Meds-matched CHR + NT, n = 15); (2) subjects unmedicated at both assessments (Meds-free CHR + NT, n = 15).
At baseline, CHR + T subjects showed large global neurocognitive and intellectual impairments, along with specific impairments in processing speed, verbal memory, sustained attention, and executive function. These impairments persisted after psychosis onset and did not further deteriorate. In contrast, CHR + NT subjects demonstrated stable mild to no impairments in neurocognitive and intellectual performance, independent of medication treatment.
Cognition appears to be impaired prior to the emergence of psychotic symptoms, with no further deterioration associated with the onset of psychosis. Cognitive deficits represent trait risk markers, as opposed to state markers of disease status and may therefore serve as possible predictors of schizophrenia prior to the onset of the full illness.
A series of research reports has indicated that the use of substances such as cannabis, alcohol and tobacco are higher in youth at clinical high risk (CHR) of developing psychosis than in controls. Little is known about the longitudinal trajectory of substance use, and findings on the relationship between substance use and later transition to psychosis in CHR individuals are mixed.
At baseline and 6- and 12-month follow-ups, 735 CHR and 278 control participants completed the Alcohol and Drug Use Scale and a cannabis use questionnaire. The longitudinal trajectory of substance use was evaluated with linear mixed models.
CHR participants endorsed significantly higher cannabis and tobacco use severity, and lower alcohol use severity, at baseline and over a 1-year period compared with controls. CHR youth had higher lifetime prevalence and frequency of cannabis, and were significantly younger upon first use, and were more likely to use alone and during the day. Baseline substance use did not differentiate participants who later transitioned to psychosis (n = 90) from those who did not transition (n = 272). Controls had lower tobacco use than CHR participants with a prodromal progression clinical outcome and lower cannabis use than those with a psychotic clinical outcome at the 2-year assessment.
In CHR individuals cannabis and tobacco use is higher than in controls and this pattern persists across 1 year. Evaluation of clinical outcome may provide additional information on the longitudinal impact of substance use that cannot be detected through evaluation of transition/non-transition to psychosis alone.
Clinical and epidemiological studies suggest an association between cannabis use and psychosis but this relationship remains controversial.
Clinical high-risk (CHR) subjects (age 12–22 years) with attenuated positive symptoms of psychosis (CHR+, n=101) were compared to healthy controls (HC, n=59) on rates of substance use, including cannabis. CHR+ subjects with and without lifetime cannabis use (and abuse) were compared on prodromal symptoms and social/role functioning at baseline. Participants were followed an average of 2.97 years to determine psychosis conversion status and functional outcome.
At baseline, CHR+ subjects had significantly higher rates of lifetime cannabis use than HC. CHR+ lifetime cannabis users (n=35) were older (p=0.015, trend), more likely to be Caucasian (p=0.002), less socially anhedonic (p<0.001) and had higher Global Functioning: Social (GF:Social) scores (p<0.001) than non-users (n=61). CHR+ cannabis users continued to have higher social functioning than non-users at follow-up (p<0.001) but showed no differences in role functioning. A small sample of CHR+ cannabis abusers (n=10) showed similar results in that abusers were older (p=0.008), less socially anhedonic (p=0.017, trend) and had higher baseline GF:Social scores (p=0.006) than non-abusers. Logistic regression analyses revealed that conversion to psychosis in CHR+ subjects (n=15) was not related to lifetime cannabis use or abuse.
The current data do not indicate that low to moderate lifetime cannabis use is a major contributor to psychosis or poor social and role functioning in clinical high-risk youth with attenuated positive symptoms of psychosis.