The Early Longitudinal Course of Cognitive Deficits in Schizophrenia


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Cognitive impairment is a core feature of schizophrenia. However, the longitudinal course and pattern of this impairment, and its relationship to functional outcome, are not fully understood. Among the likely factors in the persistence of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia are brain tissue changes over time, which in turn appear to be related to antipsychotic medication adherence. Cognitive deficits are viewed as a core feature of schizophrenia primarily because cognitive deficits clearly exist before the onset of psychosis and can predict illness onset among those at high risk of developing the illness. Additionally, these deficits often persist during symptomatic remissions in patients and are relatively stable across time both in patients and in individuals at risk for schizophrenia. Despite clear evidence that cognitive impairment can predict functional outcome in chronic schizophrenia, results of studies examining this relationship in the early phase of psychosis have been mixed. Recent data, however, strongly suggest that interventions targeting early cognitive deficits may be crucial to the prevention of chronic disability and thus should be a prominent target for therapy. Finally, it is vital to keep schizophrenia patients consistently on their antipsychotic medications. A novel method of examining intracortical myelin volume indicated that the choice of antipsychotic treatment had a differential impact on frontal myelination. These data suggest that long-acting injectable antipsychotic medication may prevent patients from declining further through a combination of better adherence and pharmacokinetics.

J Clin Psychiatry 2014;75(suppl 2):25–29