Objective: Cognitive deficits have been well documented in schizophrenia and have been shown to impair quality of life and to compromise everyday functioning. Recent studies of adolescents and young adults at high risk for developing psychosis show that neurocognitive impairments are detectable before the onset of psychotic symptoms. However, it remains unclear how cognitive impairments affect functioning before the onset of psychosis. The authors assessed cognitive impairment in adolescents at clinical high risk for psychosis and examined its impact on social and role functioning.
Method: A sample of 127 treatment-seeking patients at clinical high risk for psychosis and a group of 80 healthy comparison subjects were identified and recruited for research in the Recognition and Prevention Program. At baseline, participants were assessed with a comprehensive neurocognitive battery as well as measures of social and role functioning.
Results: Relative to healthy comparison subjects, clinical high-risk patients showed significant impairments in the domains of processing speed, verbal memory, executive function, working memory, visuospatial processing, motor speed, sustained attention, and language. Clinical high-risk patients also displayed impaired social and role functioning at baseline. Among patients with attenuated positive symptoms, processing speed was related to social and role functioning at baseline.
Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that cognitive and functional impairments are detectable in patients at clinical high risk for psychosis before the onset of psychotic illness and that processing speed appears to be an important cognitive predictor of poor functioning.