Introduction: Dysfunctions of attentional processes have been previously described as a significant characteristic associated with psychotic disorders, but the nature of these deficits are insufficiently understood in adolescents experiencing a first episode of psychosis. This study aimed to exhaustively assess attentional processes in psychotic adolescents and their relationships with clinical symptoms and diagnoses.
Methods: A total of 24 adolescents hospitalized for a first episode of psychosis and their individually matched controls were assessed using theory-driven attentional tasks.
Results: No significant differences were found on sustained and selective attention tasks. Patients performed more poorly than controls in a dual-task paradigm, suggesting a divided attention impairment. Significant deficits were also obtained on tasks requiring inhibition and flexibility capacities. No differences were found between schizophrenic and affective subgroups of patients. The intensity of the symptoms of psychosis did not seem to be associated with attentional performances.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that adolescents with a first episode of psychosis show specific rather than global attentional impairments. Sustained and selective attention seems to be preserved, whereas divided attention and attentional control are impaired when compared to controls. The attentional profile seems to be unrelated to either the clinical symptomatology or the diagnosis underlying psychosis. A partial independence between cognition and clinical symptomatology could be hypothesized from these data but remains to be directly assessed in future studies.