Objectives: Recent studies have recognized that signs of functional disability in schizophrenia are evident in early phases of the disorder, and, as a result, can potentially serve as vulnerability markers of future illness. However, functional measures in the psychosis prodrome have focused exclusively on real-world achievements, rather than on the skills required to carry-out a particular real-world function (ie, capacity). Despite growing evidence that diminished capacity is critical to the etiology of the established disorder, virtually no attention has been directed towards assessing functional capacity in the pre-illness stages. In the present study, we introduce the Map task, a measure to assess functional capacity in adolescent and young-adult high-risk populations.
Methods: The Map task was administered to 609 subjects at Clinical High-Risk (CHR) for psychosis and 242 Healthy Controls (HCs) participating in the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study (NAPLS2). Subjects were required to efficiently complete a set of specified errands in a fictional town.
Results: CHR participants showed large impairments across major indices of the Map task, relative to the HCs. Most importantly, poor performance on the Map task significantly predicted conversion to psychosis, even after adjusting for age, IQ, clinical state, and other potential confounders.
Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, the Map task is one of the first laboratory-based measures to assess functional capacity in high-risk populations. Functional capacity deficits prior to the onset of psychosis may reflect a basic mechanism that underlies risk for psychosis. Early intervention targeting this domain may help to offset risk and independently improve long-term outcome.
Keywords: CHR; NAPLS; disability; prediction; prodromal; role functioning.
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