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Schizophrenia research based on traditional assessment measures for negative symptoms appears to be, to some extent, unreliable. The limitations of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS) have been extensively acknowledged and should be taken into account. The aim of this study is to show how the PANSS and the SANS conflate negative symptoms and cognition and to offer alternatives for the limitations found.
A sample of 117 participants with schizophrenia from two independent studies was retrospectively investigated. Linear regression models were computed to explore the effect of negative symptoms and illness duration as predictors of cognitive performance.
For the PANSS, the item “abstract thinking” accounted for the association between negative symptoms and cognition. For the SANS, the “attention” subscale predicted the performance in verbal memory, but illness duration emerged as a stronger predictor than negative symptoms for outcomes of processing speed, verbal and working memory.
Utilizing alternative models to the traditional PANSS and SANS formats, and accounting for illness duration, provide more precise evidence on the relationship between negative symptoms and cognition. Since these measures are still extensively utilized, we recommend adopting more rigorous approaches to avoid misleading results.
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