Background: The objectives of the study were to characterize and compare the cognitive profile and natural evolution of patients presenting late-onset psychotic symptoms (LOPS: onset ≥50 years old) to those of elderly patients (≥50 years old) with life-long/early-onset schizophrenia (EOS: onset <40 years old).
Methods: Neuropsychological profiles of 15 LOPS patients were compared to those of 17 elderly EOS patients and to those of two control groups (n = 11/group). The evolution of the two patient groups was compared using an independent diagnostic consensual procedure involving a geriatric psychiatry physician/clinician and a neuropsychologist blinded to the initial psychiatric diagnosis.
Results: EOS presented significant memory and executive impairments when compared to controls but there was no significant difference between LOPS and their controls when age and education were taken into account. However, a detailed inspection of normative data suggests more executive impairments in LOPS than in EOS. The clinical judgment of experts was in favour of significant cognitive deficits with or without dementia in most LOPS (82.3%–94.1%) and EOS (80.0%–93.3%) patients. Regarding evolution, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) were the most common clinical diagnoses made by geriatric psychiatry physicians/clinicians for the LOPS (40%). In addition, 20% of LOPS versus 5.9% of EOS patients met the diagnostic criteria for dementia by consensus of the experts. Cerebral abnormalities were confirmed (CT scan; SPECT) in 73.3% of LOPS patients.
Conclusion: The present results suggest cognitive deficits (mostly of executive functions) and vascular and neurodegenerative vulnerability in LOPS. Further studies with larger samples are needed to confirm the present findings.