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Patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) tend to lack insight, which is linked to poor outcomes. The effect size of previous treatments on insight changes in SSD has been small. Metacognitive interventions may improve insight in SSD, although this remains unproved.
We carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to examine the effects of metacognitive interventions designed for SSD, namely Metacognitive Training (MCT) and Metacognitive Reflection and Insight Therapy (MERIT), on changes in cognitive and clinical insight at post-treatment and at follow-up.
Twelve RCTs, including 10 MCT RCTs (n = 717 participants) and two MERIT trials (n = 90), were selected, totalling N = 807 participants. Regarding cognitive insight six RCTs (n = 443) highlighted a medium effect of MCT on self-reflectiveness at post-treatment, d = 0.46, p < 0.01, and at follow-up, d = 0.30, p < 0.01. There was a small effect of MCT on self-certainty at post-treatment, d = −0.23, p = 0.03, but not at follow-up. MCT was superior to controls on an overall Composite Index of cognitive insight at post-treatment, d = 1.11, p < 0.01, and at follow-up, d = 0.86, p = 0.03, although we found evidence of heterogeneity. Of five MCT trials on clinical insight (n = 244 participants), which could not be meta-analysed, four of them favoured MCT compared v. control. The two MERIT trials reported conflicting results.
Metacognitive interventions, particularly Metacognitive Training, appear to improve insight in patients with SSD, especially cognitive insight shortly after treatment. Further long-term RCTs are needed to establish whether these metacognitive interventions-related insight changes are sustained over a longer time period and result in better outcomes.
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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