The goal of this randomly-assigned placebo-controlled double-blind study was to determine if the addition of buspirone, a widely available 5-HT1A partial agonist, would enhance cognitive function, in subjects with schizophrenia treated with atypical antipsychotic drugs (AAPDs). Seventy-three patients with schizophrenia, who had been treated with an AAPD for at least three months, were randomly assigned to receive either buspirone, 30 mg/day, or matching placebo. All other medications remained unchanged. Attention, verbal fluency, verbal learning and memory, verbal working memory, and executive function, as well as psychopathology, were assessed at baseline, and 6 weeks, and 3 and 6 months after baseline. A significant Time x Group interaction effect was noted on the Digit Symbol Substitution Test, a measure of attention/speeded motor performance, due to better performance of the buspirone group compared to the placebo group at 3 months. No significant interaction effects were noted for other domains of cognition. Scores on the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (Total, Positive) were improved during treatment with buspirone but not placebo, but the effects did not reach statistical significance.
The results of this study showed a possible benefit of buspirone augmentation of AAPDs to enhance attention. However, we did not replicate the results of the previous study with tandospirone that improved executive function and verbal learning and memory, which may be due to the differences between tandospirone and buspirone, between typical antipsychotics and AAPDs, or a combination of the above. Further study to determine the usefulness of 5-HT1A agonist treatment in schizophrenia is indicated.