Background: Up to 85% of patients with schizophrenia demonstrate cognitive dysfunction in at least one domain. Cognitive dysfunction plays a major role in functional outcome. It is hypothesized that addition of cognitive training to a comprehensive psychosocial programme (OPUS) enhances both cognitive and everyday functional capacity of patients more than the comprehensive psychosocial programme alone.
Methods: The NEUROCOM trial examines the effect on cognitive functioning and everyday functional capacity of patients with schizophrenia of a 16-week manualised programme of individual cognitive training integrated in a comprehensive psychosocial programme versus the comprehensive psychosocial programme alone. The cognitive training consists of four modules focusing on attention, executive functioning, learning, and memory. Cognitive training involves computer-assisted training tasks as well as practical everyday tasks and calendar training. It takes place twice a week, and every other week the patient and trainer engage in a dialogue on the patient's cognitive difficulties, motivational goals, and progress in competence level. Cognitive training relies on errorless learning principles, scaffolding, and verbalisation in its effort to improve cognitive abilities and teach patients how to apply compensation strategies as well as structured problem solving techniques. At 16-week post-training and at ten-months follow-up, assessments are conducted to investigate immediate outcome and possible long-term effects of cognitive training. We conduct blinded assessments of cognition, everyday functional capacity and associations with the labour market, symptom severity, and self-esteem.
Discussion: Results from four-month and ten-month follow-ups have the potential of reliably providing documentation of the long-term effect of CT for patients with schizophrenia.
Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00472862.