Nonsocial and Social Cognition in Schizophrenia: Current Evidence and Future Directions

World Psychiatry. 2019 Jun;18(2):146-161. doi: 10.1002/wps.20624.


Cognitive impairment in schizophrenia involves a broad array of nonsocial and social cognitive domains. It is a core feature of the illness, and one with substantial implications for treatment and prognosis. Our understanding of the causes, consequences and interventions for cognitive impairment in schizophrenia has grown substantially in recent years. Here we review a range of topics, including: a) the types of nonsocial cognitive, social cognitive, and perceptual deficits in schizophrenia; b) how deficits in schizophrenia are similar or different from those in other disorders; c) cognitive impairments in the prodromal period and over the lifespan in schizophrenia; d) neuroimaging of the neural substrates of nonsocial and social cognition, and e) relationships of nonsocial and social cognition to functional outcome. The paper also reviews the considerable efforts that have been directed to improve cognitive impairments in schizophrenia through novel psychopharmacology, cognitive remediation, social cognitive training, and alternative approaches. In the final section, we consider areas that are emerging and have the potential to provide future insights, including the interface of motivation and cognition, the influence of childhood adversity, metacognition, the role of neuroinflammation, computational modelling, the application of remote digital technology, and novel methods to evaluate brain network organization. The study of cognitive impairment has provided a way to approach, examine and comprehend a wide range of features of schizophrenia, and it may ultimately affect how we define and diagnose this complex disorder.

Keywords: Schizophrenia; brain network organization; childhood adversity; cognition; cognitive enhancement; cognitive neuroscience; cognitive remediation; computational modelling; functional outcome; metacognition; social cognition; social neuroscience.