Avoidance of accelerated aging in schizophrenia?: Clinical and biological characterization of an exceptionally high functioning individual

Schizophr Res. 2018 Jun;196:45-52. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2017.07.052. Epub 2017 Aug 8.


Objective: To determine the clinical and biological characteristics of an exceptionally high functioning index person (IP) with schizophrenia in her mid-50s, which may represent compensatory mechanisms, and potentially, avoidance of the accelerated aging typically associated with schizophrenia.

Method: IP, 11 other women with schizophrenia, and 11 non-psychiatric comparison (NC) women were assessed with standard ratings of psychopathology, neurocognitive function, decisional capacity, and functional brain imaging. IP was also compared to a sample of demographically similar NCs (N=45) and persons with schizophrenia (N=42) on a set of blood-based biomarkers of aging related to metabolic function, oxidative stress, and inflammation.

Results: IP's scores on working memory, and levels of brain activation during an affective face matching task in the left fusiform, right lingual, and left precentral gyri, exceeded NCs. IP was similar to NCs in severity of negative symptoms, most neurocognitive functions, decisional capacity, and brain activation in the left inferior occipital gyrus during a selective stopping task. IP's levels on 11 of 14 metabolic and inflammatory biomarkers of aging were better than NCs and the schizophrenia group.

Conclusion: Although speculative, results suggest a possible model in which superior working memory permits a person to be aware of the potentially psychotic nature of a thought or perception, and adjust response accordingly. Compensatory overactivity of brain regions during affective processing may also reflect heightened meta-awareness in emotional situations. Biomarker levels raise the possibility that IP partially avoided the accelerated biological aging associated with schizophrenia.

Keywords: Aging; Biomarkers; Neurocognition; Psychosis; Working memory; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Facial Recognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / diagnostic imaging
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Schizophrenia / therapy
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*


  • Biomarkers