Computerized assessment of cognition in schizophrenia: promises and pitfalls of CANTAB

Eur Psychiatry. 2007 Mar;22(2):104-15. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2006.11.004. Epub 2007 Jan 16.


Objective: Over the last decade, the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), which comprises visuo-spatial tasks, has been utilized in cognitive studies of schizophrenia. A clear approach concerning the usage of CANTAB for the appraisal of neurocognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia is currently lacking.

Method: In this paper, we have first reviewed the overall applications of CANTAB and then evaluated methodological strengths and weaknesses of CANTAB as a neurocognitive battery for schizophrenia. We carried out a systematic search and assessment of studies where CANTAB was utilized to measure cognitive function in schizophrenia. We have also attempted to quantify the available data and perform a meta-analysis, but this approach turned out to be still premature.

Results: CANTAB has enabled researchers to highlight significant deficits affecting broad cognitive domains in schizophrenia, such as working memory, decision-making, attention, executive functions and visual memory. So far, the most consistent deficit observed with CANTAB testing has been attentional set-shifting, suggestive of fronto-striatal dysfunctions. In addition, preliminary evidence points towards the potential use of CANTAB to identify cognitive predictors of psychosocial functioning, to describe the relationships between symptoms and cognition, and to measure the impact of pharmacological agents on cognitive functioning.

Conclusion: CANTAB has been used successfully to highlight the range of visuo-spatial cognitive deficits in schizophrenia, producing similar results to those obtained with some traditional neuropsychological tests. Further studies validating the use of CANTAB following the standard set by Measurement And Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia (MATRICS) are warranted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted*
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests* / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Software