Impairment in delay discounting in schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder but not primary mood disorders

NPJ Schizophr. 2018 May 28;4(1):9. doi: 10.1038/s41537-018-0050-z.


A measure of planning and impulse control, the delay-discounting (DD) task estimates the extent to which an individual decreases the perceived value of a reward as the reward is delayed. We examined cross-disorder performance between healthy controls (n = 88), individuals with bipolar disorder (n = 23), major depressive disorder (n = 43), and primary psychotic disorders (schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder; n = 51) on the DD task (using a $10 delayed larger reward), as well as the interaction of DD scores with other symptom domains (cognition, psychosis, and affect). We found that individuals with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder display significantly greater rates of discounting compared to healthy controls, while individuals with a primary mood disorder do not differ from healthy controls after adjustment for IQ. Further, impairment in working memory is associated with higher discounting rates among individuals with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, but cognitive dysfunction alone does not account for the extent of impairment in DD. Taken together, these results suggest an impaired ability to plan for the future and make adaptive decisions that are specific to individuals with psychotic disorders, and likely related to adverse functional outcomes. More generally, this work demonstrates the presence of variation in impulsivity across major psychiatric illnesses, supporting the use of a trans-diagnostic perspective.