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Childhood adversity is associated with cognitive impairments in schizophrenia. However, findings to date are inconsistent and little is known about the relationship between social cognition and childhood trauma. We investigated the relationship between childhood abuse and neglect and cognitive function in patients with a first-episode of schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorder (n = 56) and matched healthy controls (n = 52). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study assessing this relationship in patients and controls exposed to similarly high levels of trauma.
Pearson correlational coefficients were used to assess correlations between Childhood Trauma Questionnaire abuse and neglect scores and cognition. For the MCCB domains displaying significant (p < 0.05) correlations, within group hierarchical linear regression, was done to assess whether abuse and neglect were significant predictors of cognition after controlling for the effect of education.
Patients and controls reported similarly high levels of abuse and neglect. Cognitive performance was poorer for patients compared with controls for all cognitive domains except working memory and social cognition. After controlling for education, exposure to childhood neglect remained a significant predictor of impairment in social cognition in both patients and controls. Neglect was also a significant predictor of poorer verbal learning in patients and of attention/vigilance in controls. However, childhood abuse did not significantly predict cognitive impairments in either patients or controls.
These findings are cross sectional and do not infer causality. Nonetheless, they indicate that associations between one type of childhood adversity (i.e. neglect) and social cognition are present and are not illness-specific.
Progressive brain volume reductions have been described in schizophrenia, and an association with antipsychotic exposure has been reported.
We compared percentage changes in grey and white matter volume from baseline to month 12 in 23 previously antipsychotic-naïve patients with a first episode of schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorder who were treated with the lowest effective dose of flupenthixol decanoate depot formulation, with 53 matched healthy individuals. Total antipsychotic dose was precisely calculated and its relationship with brain volume changes investigated. Relationships between volumetric changes and treatment were further investigated in terms of treatment response (changes in psychopathology and functionality) and treatment-related adverse-events (extrapyramidal symptoms and weight gain).
Excessive cortical volume reductions were observed in patients [−4.6 (6.6)%] v. controls [−1.12 (4.0)%] (p = 0.009), with no significant group differences for changes in subcortical grey matter and white matter volumes. In a multiple regression model, the only significant predictor of cortical volume change was total antipsychotic dose received (p = 0.04). Cortical volume change was not significantly associated with the changes in psychopathology, functionality, extrapyramidal symptoms and body mass index or age, gender and duration of untreated psychosis.
Brain volume reductions associated with antipsychotic treatment are not restricted to poor outcome patients and occur even with the lowest effective dose of antipsychotic. The lack of an association with poor treatment response or treatment-related adverse effects counts against cortical volume reductions reflecting neurotoxicity, at least in the short term. On the other hand, the volume reductions were not linked to the therapeutic benefits of antipsychotics.
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