Objectives: Sex differences can yield important clues regarding illness pathophysiology and its treatment. Schizophrenia (SZ) has a lower incidence rate, and a better prognosis, in women versus men. The present study investigated the cognitive profiles of both sexes in a large multi-centre sample of community-dwelling SZ patients.
Method: 544 community-dwelling stable SZ subjects (141 women and 403 men; mean age 34.5±12.1 and 31.6±8.7years, respectively) were tested with a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests.
Results: Although community-dwelling SZ men had more risk factors for impaired cognition (including first-generation antipsychotics administration and comorbid addictive disorders), women had lower scores on a wide range of cognitive functions, including current and premorbid intellectual functioning, working memory, semantic memory, non-verbal abstract thinking and aspects of visual exploration. However, women scored higher in tests of processing speed and verbal learning, as well as having a lower verbal learning bias. No sex difference were evident for visuospatial learning abilities, cued verbal recall, sustained attention and tests of executive functions, including cognitive flexibility, verbal abstract thinking, verbal fluency and planning abilities.
Conclusion: Sex differences are evident in the cognitive profiles of SZ patients. The impact on daily functioning and prognosis, as well as longitudinal trajectory, should be further investigated in the FACE-SZ follow-up study. Sex differences in cognition have implications for precision-medicine determined therapeutic strategies.
Limits: Given the restricted age range of the sample, future research will have to determine cognitive profiles across gender in late onset SZ.
Keywords: Cognition; Gender; Schizophrenia.
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