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The attenuated positive symptoms syndrome (APSS) is considered an at-risk indicator for psychosis. However, the characteristics and developmental aspects of the combined or enriched risk criteria of APSS and basic symptom (BS) criteria, including self-experienced cognitive disturbances (COGDIS) remain under-researched.
Based on the Structured Interview of Prodromal Syndromes (SIPS), the prevalence of APSS in 13- to 35-year-old individuals seeking help in an early recognition program for schizophrenia and bipolar-spectrum disorders was examined. BS criteria and COGDIS were rated using the Schizophrenia Proneness Instrument for Adults/Children and Youth. Participants meeting APSS criteria were compared with participants meeting only BS criteria across multiple characteristics. Co-occurrence (APSS+/BS+, APSS+/COGDIS+) was compared across 13–17, 18–22 and 23–35 years age groups.
Of 175 individuals (age = 20.6 ± 5.8, female = 38.3%), 94 (53.7%) met APSS criteria. Compared to BS, APSS status was associated with suicidality, higher illness severity, lower functioning, higher SIPS positive, negative, disorganized and general symptoms scores, depression scores and younger age (18.3 ± 5.0 v. 23.2 ± 5.6 years, p < 0.0001) with age-related differences in the prevalence of APSS (ranging from 80.3% in 13- to 17-year-olds to 33.3% in 23- to 35-year-olds (odds ratio 0.21, 95% confidence interval 0.11–0.37). Within APSS+ individuals, fewer adolescents fulfilled combined risk criteria of APSS+/BS+ or APSS+/COGDIS+ compared to the older age groups.
APSS status was associated with greater suicidality and illness/psychophathology severity in this help-seeking cohort, emphasizing the need for clinical care. The age-related differences in the prevalence of APSS and the increasing proportion of APSS+/COGDIS+ may point to a higher proportion of non-specific/transient, rather than risk-specific attenuated positive symptoms in adolescents.
Neurocognitive deficits are important aspects of schizophrenic disorder because they have a strong impact on social and vocational outcomes. Previously it was assumed that cognitive abilities progressively deteriorate with illness onset. However, recent research results have contradicted this with observations of continuous or even improved performance in individuals at risk for psychosis or manifest schizophrenia. The objective of our longitudinal study was to examine neurocognitive functioning in help-seeking individuals meeting basic symptoms or ultra-high-risk criteria for schizophrenic psychosis (HRSchiz) or risk criteria for affective psychosis (HRBip). The progression of cognitive functioning in individuals converting to psychosis was compared with that of at-risk individuals who did not convert during the follow-up period.
Data were available from 86 study participants who completed neurocognitive and clinical assessments at baseline and, on average, 12.8 (s.d. = 1.5) months later. Neurocognitive measures were grouped according to their load in factor analysis to five cognitive domains: speed, attention, fluency, learning and memory, and working memory.
Neurocognitive functioning in HRSchiz and HRBip individuals generally improved over time. Subjects converting to manifest psychosis displayed a stable neurocognitive profile from baseline to follow-up. Compared with non-converters, they had already demonstrated a significantly lower level of performance during their baseline examinations.
Our data provide no evidence for a progressive cognitive decline in individuals at risk of psychosis. In line with the neurodevelopmental model, our findings suggest that cognitive deficits are already present very early, before or during the prodromal stage of the illness.
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