Although cognitive dysfunction is a primary characteristic of schizophrenia, only recently have investigations begun to pinpoint when the dysfunction develops in the individual afflicted by the disorder. Research to date provides evidence for significant cognitive impairments prior to disorder onset. Less is known about the course of cognitive dysfunction from onset to the chronic phase of schizophrenia. Although longitudinal studies are optimal for assessing stability of cognitive deficits, practice effects often confound assessments, and large and representative subject samples have not been followed over long periods of time. We report results of a cross-sectional study of cognitive deficits early and late in the course of schizophrenia carried out at four different geographic locations to increase sample size and generalizability of findings. We examined a broad set of cognitive functions in 41 recent-onset schizophrenia patients and 106 chronic schizophrenia patients. The study included separate groups of 43 matched controls for the recent-onset sample and 105 matched controls for the chronic schizophrenia sample in order to evaluate the effects of cohort (i.e., age) and diagnosis (i.e., schizophrenia) on cognitive functions. All measures of cognitive function showed effects of diagnosis; however, select time-based measures of problem solving and fine motor dexterity exhibited interactions of diagnosis and cohort indicating that these deficits may progress beyond what is expected with normal aging. Also, worse recall of material in episodic memory was associated with greater length of illness. Nevertheless, findings indicate that nearly all cognitive deficits are comparably impaired across recent-onset and chronic schizophrenia.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.