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Neuropsychiatric disorders are common in 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome (22q11DS) with about 25% of affected individuals developing schizophrenia spectrum disorders by young adulthood. Longitudinal evaluation of psychosis spectrum features and neurocognition can establish developmental trajectories and impact on functional outcome.
157 youth with 22q11DS were assessed longitudinally for psychopathology focusing on psychosis spectrum symptoms, neurocognitive performance and global functioning. We contrasted the pattern of positive and negative psychosis spectrum symptoms and neurocognitive performance differentiating those with more prominent Psychosis Spectrum symptoms (PS+) to those without prominent psychosis symptoms (PS−).
We identified differences in the trajectories of psychosis symptoms and neurocognitive performance between the groups. The PS+ group showed age associated increase in symptom severity, especially negative symptoms and general nonspecific symptoms. Correspondingly, their level of functioning was worse and deteriorated more steeply than the PS− group. Neurocognitive performance was generally comparable in PS+ and PS− groups and demonstrated a similar age-related trajectory. However, worsening executive functioning distinguished the PS+ group from PS− counterparts. Notably, of the three executive function measures examined, only working memory showed a significant difference between the groups in rate of change. Finally, structural equation modeling showed that neurocognitive decline drove the clinical change.
Youth with 22q11DS and more prominent psychosis features show worsening of symptoms and functional decline driven by neurocognitive decline, most related to executive functions and specifically working memory. The results underscore the importance of working memory in the developmental progression of psychosis.
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