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It has become widely accepted that cognitive deficits in schizophrenia are related to functional outcome. However, it remains to be seen whether these associations are relevant for predicting which cases will have a global functional recovery. In this study, we attempt to determine whether global functional recovery (integrating social and occupational outcomes) after first-episode schizophrenia (FES) can be predicted by cognitive variables.
A total of 131 FES patients with functional deficits (n=97) and functional recovery (n=34) as determined at 1-year follow-up were examined. Neuropsychological, sociodemographic, pre-morbid and clinical data at baseline were analysed using independent groups comparisons and a logistic regression method.
Sustained attention and negative symptoms emerged as significant predictors of good global functional outcome. Although the model revealed a high accuracy (91%) in the classification of patients with functional deficits, it was unacceptably low (26%) in the classification of patients with global functional recovery.
The limitations found in the prediction of a favourable global functional outcome may well be an indication for a need to address the role of other factors not commonly included in longitudinal studies of long-term outcomes in schizophrenia.
Cannabis use appears to be a risk factor for schizophrenia. Moreover, cannabis abusers show impaired decision-making capacities, linked to the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Although there is substantial evidence that first-episode schizophrenia patients show impairments in cognitive tasks associated with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), it is not clear whether decision making is impaired at schizophrenia onset. In this study, we examined the association between antecedents of cannabis abuse and cognitive impairment in cognitive tasks associated with the DLPFC and the OFC in a sample of first-episode patients with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders.
One hundred and thirty-two patients experiencing their first episode of a schizophrenia-spectrum psychosis were assessed with a cognitive battery including DLPFC-related tasks [backward digits, verbal fluency (FAS) and the Trail Making Test (TMT)] and an OFC-related task [the Iowa Gambling Task (GT)]. Performance on these tasks was compared between patients who had and had not abused cannabis before their psychosis onset.
No differences were observed between the two groups on the performance of any of the DLPFC-related tasks. However, patients who had abused cannabis before their psychosis onset showed a poorer total performance on the gambling task and a lower improvement on the performance of the task compared to no-abusers.
Pre-psychotic cannabis abuse is associated with decision-making impairment, but not working memory and executive function impairment, among first-episode patients with a schizophrenia-spectrum psychosis. Further studies are needed to examine the direction of causality of this impairment; that is, does the impairment make the patients abuse cannabis, or does cannabis abuse cause the impairment?
Predicting cognitive deficits in early psychosis may well be crucial to identify those individuals most in need of receiving intensive intervention. As yet, however, the identification of potential pretreatment predictors for cognitive performance has been hampered by inconsistent findings across studies. We aimed to examine the associations of functional and clinical pretreatment variables with cognitive functioning after a first psychotic episode.
One hundred and thirty-one patients experiencing first-episode psychosis were assessed for psychopathology, pre-morbid functioning, duration of illness, age of onset, and family history of psychosis and neurocognitive functioning. Multiple regression analyses were conducted for six basic cognitive dimensions known to be affected in this population: verbal learning, verbal memory, verbal comprehensive abilities, executive functioning, motor dexterity and sustained attention.
Pre-morbid functioning was the main predictor for five out of the six basic cognitive domains. Pre-morbid social adjustment difficulties were associated with worse performance in executive functioning, motor dexterity and sustained attention. Academic functioning was associated with verbal comprehension, and verbal learning and memory. Gender, age of onset, duration of untreated psychosis, and family history of psychosis had no or limited value as predictors of neurocognitive outcome.
Poor pre-morbid functioning was related to a worse performance in the six basic cognitive dimensions evaluated; however, this accounted for only a small amount of the explained variance. Cognitive impairment is a prominent feature in patients with early psychosis regardless of favorable prognostic features such as short duration of illness, female gender, later age of onset, and non-family history of psychosis.
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