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Previous reviews suggest there is minimal evidence for an association between duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) and neurocognition. This is based on tallied findings of studies with small samples and neurocognition viewed as a single construct. We aimed to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the association between DUP and individual neurocognitive domains and tests in first-episode psychosis (FEP).
MOOSE and PRISMA guidelines were followed. Forty-three studies involving 4647 FEP patients were included. For studies providing correlations between DUP and neurocognition, 12 separate meta-analyses were performed based on neurocognitive domains/indices. The influence of demographic/clinical variables was tested using weighted linear meta-regression analyses.
The relationship between DUP and most neurocognitive domains/indices was not significant. Longer DUP was associated with a larger cognitive deterioration index, i.e. current minus premorbid intellectual functioning (N = 4; mean ES −0.213, 95% confidence interval (CI) (−0.344 to −0.074), p = 0.003). Findings were homogeneous, with no evidence of publication bias or significant influence from moderators. For studies providing mean and standard deviations for neurocognitive measures and DUP, 20 meta-regressions were performed on individual neurocognitive tests. One significant finding emerged showing that longer DUP was associated with fewer Wisconsin Card Sorting Test-perseverative errors (mean ES −0.031, 95% CI (−0.048 to −0.013), p < 0.001). Exploratory meta-regressions in studies with mean DUP <360 days showed longer DUP was significantly associated with poorer performance on Trail Making Test A and B and higher Full-Scale IQ.
There may not be a generalised association between DUP and neurocognition, however, specific cognitive functions may be associated with longer DUP or delayed help-seeking.
Cognitive deficits are a core feature of schizophrenia, and impairments in most domains are thought to be stable over the course of the illness. However, cross-sectional evidence indicates that some areas of cognition, such as visuospatial associative memory, may be preserved in the early stages of psychosis, but become impaired in later established illness stages. This longitudinal study investigated change in visuospatial and verbal associative memory following psychosis onset.
In total 95 first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients and 63 healthy controls (HC) were assessed on neuropsychological tests at baseline, with 38 FEP and 22 HCs returning for follow-up assessment at 5–11 years. Visuospatial associative memory was assessed using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery Visuospatial Paired-Associate Learning task, and verbal associative memory was assessed using Verbal Paired Associates subtest of the Wechsler Memory Scale - Revised.
Visuospatial and verbal associative memory at baseline did not differ significantly between FEP patients and HCs. However, over follow-up, visuospatial associative memory deteriorated significantly for the FEP group, relative to healthy individuals. Conversely, verbal associative memory improved to a similar degree observed in HCs. In the FEP cohort, visuospatial (but not verbal) associative memory ability at baseline was associated with functional outcome at follow-up.
Areas of cognition that develop prior to psychosis onset, such as visuospatial and verbal associative memory, may be preserved early in the illness. Later deterioration in visuospatial memory ability may relate to progressive structural and functional brain abnormalities that occurs following psychosis onset.
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