Neuropsychological clustering highlights cognitive differences in young people presenting with depressive symptoms

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2011 Mar;17(2):267-76. doi: 10.1017/S1355617710001566. Epub 2011 Jan 4.


Early stages of affective or psychotic disorders may be accompanied by neuropsychological changes that help to predict risk of developing more severe disorders. A comprehensive set of neuropsychological measures was collected in 109 help-seeking young people (16 to 30 years; 54 females), recently diagnosed with an affective or psychotic disorder and presenting with current depression. Hierarchical cluster analysis determined three clusters: one deemed to have a "poor memory" profile (n = 40); another with a "poor mental flexibility" profile (n = 38) and a third with widespread difficulties plus "impaired attention and memory" (n = 31). In general, the three clusters were comparable in demographic, functional and clinical factors suggesting some unique role for neurocognitive impairments. A discriminant function analysis confirmed that the clusters were best characterized by performance in "attentional" versus "learning/memory" measures. Furthermore, profiles of independent neuropsychological variables validated the original solution for two of the clusters, distinguishing all cluster-groups on an attentional measure. The findings of this study suggest that despite presenting with very similar levels of current depressive symptomatology, young help-seeking individuals in the early stages of illness have underlying neuropsychological heterogeneity. Distinct neuropsychological profiling may help to predict later psychiatric outcomes and enhance individually-tailored early intervention strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Depression / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Young Adult