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Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are complex mental illnesses that are associated with cognitive deficits. There is considerable cognitive heterogeneity that exists within both disorders. Studies that cluster schizophrenia and bipolar patients into subgroups based on their cognitive profile increasingly demonstrate that, relative to healthy controls, there is a severely compromised subgroup and a relatively intact subgroup. There is emerging evidence that telomere shortening, a marker of cellular senescence, may be associated with cognitive impairments. The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between cognitive subgroups in bipolar-schizophrenia spectrum disorders and telomere length against a healthy control sample.
Participants included a transdiagnostic group diagnosed with bipolar, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder (n = 73) and healthy controls (n = 113). Cognitive clusters within the transdiagnostic patient group, were determined using K-means cluster analysis based on current cognitive functioning (MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery scores). Telomere length was determined using quantitative PCRs genomic DNA extracted from whole blood. Emergent clusters were then compared to the healthy control group on telomere length.
Two clusters emerged within the patient group that were deemed to reflect a relatively intact cognitive group and a cognitively impaired subgroup. Telomere length was significantly shorter in the severely impaired cognitive subgroup compared to the healthy control group.
This study replicates previous findings of transdiagnostic cognitive subgroups and associates shorter telomere length with the severely impaired cognitive subgroup. These findings support emerging literature associating cognitive impairments in psychiatric disorders to accelerated cellular aging as indexed by telomere length.
There is ongoing debate regarding the relationship between clinical symptoms and cognition in schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD). The present study aimed to explore the potential relationships between symptoms, with an emphasis on negative symptoms, and social and non-social cognition.
Hierarchical cluster analysis with k-means optimisation was conducted to characterise clinical subgroups using the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms and Scale for the Assessment of Positive Symptoms in n = 130 SSD participants. Emergent clusters were compared on the MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery, which measures non-social cognition and emotion management as well as demographic and clinical variables. Spearman’s correlations were then used to investigate potential relationships between specific negative symptoms and emotion management and non-social cognition.
Four distinct clinical subgroups were identified: 1. high hallucinations, 2. mixed symptoms, 3. high negative symptoms, and 4. relatively asymptomatic. The high negative symptom subgroup was found to have significantly poorer emotion management than the high hallucination and relatively asymptomatic subgroups. No further differences between subgroups were observed. Correlation analyses revealed avolition-apathy and anhedonia-asociality were negatively correlated with emotion management, but not non-social cognition. Affective flattening and alogia were not associated with either emotion management or non-social cognition.
The present study identified associations between negative symptoms and emotion management within social cognition, but no domains of non-social cognition. This relationship may be specific to motivation, anhedonia and apathy, but not expressive deficits. This suggests that targeted interventions for social cognition may also result in parallel improvement in some specific negative symptoms.
Objectives: The Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) is a complex measure of executive function that is frequently employed to investigate the schizophrenia spectrum. The successful completion of the task requires the interaction of multiple intact executive processes, including attention, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and concept formation. Considerable cognitive heterogeneity exists among the schizophrenia spectrum population, with substantive evidence to support the existence of distinct cognitive phenotypes. The within-group performance heterogeneity of individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorder (SSD) on the WCST has yet to be investigated. A data-driven cluster analysis was performed to characterise WCST performance heterogeneity. Methods: Hierarchical cluster analysis with k-means optimisation was employed to identify homogenous subgroups in a sample of 210 schizophrenia spectrum participants. Emergent clusters were then compared to each other and a group of 194 healthy controls (HC) on WCST performance and demographic/clinical variables. Results: Three clusters emerged and were validated via altered design iterations. Clusters were deemed to reflect a relatively intact patient subgroup, a moderately impaired patient subgroup, and a severely impaired patient subgroup. Conclusions: Considerable within-group heterogeneity exists on the WCST. Identification of subgroups of patients who exhibit homogenous performance on measures of executive functioning may assist in optimising cognitive interventions. Previous associations found using the WCST among schizophrenia spectrum participants should be reappraised. (JINS, 2019, 25, 750–760)
Objectives: Antisaccade error rate has been proposed to be one of the most promising endophenotypes for schizophrenia. Increased error rate in patients has been associated with working memory, attention and other executive function impairments. The relationship between antisaccade error rate and other neuropsychological processes in patients compared to healthy controls has not been explored in depth. This study aimed to replicate the finding of heightened antisaccade error rate in patients and determine which cognitive processes were most strongly associated with antisaccade error rate in both patients and controls. In addition, the study investigated whether different antisaccade task paradigms engage different cognitive processes. Methods: One hundred and ninety-one participants (54 patients with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder and 137 controls) completed the antisaccade task, which included both gap and step task parameters. Neuropsychological measures were obtained using the MCCB and the Stroop task. Results: The current study replicated a pronounced antisaccade error rate deficit in patients. In patients, working memory variance was most significantly associated with antisaccade errors made during the step condition, while attentional processes were most associated with errors made during the gap condition. In controls, overall global cognitive performance was most associated with antisaccade rates for both gap and step conditions. Conclusions: The current study demonstrates that in schizophrenia patients, but not controls, elevated antisaccade error rate is associated with attention and working memory, but not with global cognitive impairment or psychopathological processes. Our novel findings demonstrate that the gap and step conditions of the antisaccade task engage different cognitive processes. (JINS, 2019, 25, 174–183)
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