Persistent Negative Symptoms in First-Episode Psychosis: Early Cognitive and Social Functioning Correlates and Differences Between Early and Adult Onset

Objective: To characterize the early cognitive and social functioning characteristics of a sample of first-episode psychosis patients with and without persistent negative symptoms (PNS) and to examine the prevalence and cognitive and functional correlates of PNS in patients with early-onset versus adult-onset first-episode psychosis.

Methods: Participants were 235 patients with first-episode psychosis (51 early-onset, 184 adult-onset) and 240 healthy controls from a multicenter longitudinal study (recruited between 2009 and 2011). Standard instruments were used to evaluate symptoms, cognition, and social functioning. Diagnoses were determined according to DSM-IV criteria. PNS proxy was derived from clinical assessments (Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale and Montgomery-Asberg Depression Scale) at 2-, 6-, and 12-month follow-up. Association tests were used to compare the prevalence of PNS in the early-onset versus adult-onset groups. Multivariate analysis of variance was used to examine differences in early cognitive and social functioning (at the 2-month assessment) between patients with and without PNS and between early-onset and adult-onset patients with PNS.

Results: Thirty-eight patients (16.2%) met criteria for PNS during the first year. This PNS group showed a selective deficit in executive functions and in global, community, and occupational functioning (P < .05). Having PNS was associated with a diagnosis of a schizophrenia spectrum disorder at the 12-month follow-up. The prevalence of PNS was almost double for those patients with an early-onset (0.25 vs 0.14; OR = 2.18; 95% CI, 1.02–4.64), and this was associated with greater cognitive (P < .05) but not social deficits.

Conclusions: There was an early, detectable, social and executive dysfunction associated with PNS in first-episode psychosis and a high risk of having PNS in early-onset first-episode psychosis, which in turn was associated with more widespread cognitive impairment. Specific therapeutic interventions for PNS in early-onset first-episode psychosis might be needed.

J Clin Psychiatry 2017;78(9):1414–1422

https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.16m11122