Background: Patients with schizophrenia suffer from a broad range of cognitive disturbances. The impact in terms of functional outcome is significant. There are also several reports of disturbed autonomic regulation in the disease. The present study examined cognitive function as well as psychophysiological parameters in patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls.
Methods: Twenty-five patients and 14 controls were investigated with electrodermal activity (EDA), an oral niacin skin flush test and a comprehensive neurocognitive test program including the Wechsler battery (WAIS-R), Fingertapping Test, Trail Making Test, Verbal Fluency, Benton Visual Retention Test, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test.
Results: The patients generally had inferior test results compared to controls. Further analysis revealed that the EDA non-responding patient group explained this variation with significant lower test results than controls. On executive tests, EDA non-responders also performed significantly worse than EDA responding patients. The small group of niacin non-responding patients exhibited an even lower overall test performance. Delayed niacin flush also correlated inversely with psychomotor function and IQ in the patients.
Conclusion: The findings support the hypothesis of a neurodevelopment disturbance affecting both autonomic function and higher cortical function in schizophrenia.
Keywords: Autonomic function; Cognition; Electrodermal activity; Niacin flush; Psychophysiology; Schizophrenia.
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