Does childhood trauma influence cognitive functioning in schizophrenia? The association of childhood trauma and cognition in schizophrenia spectrum disorders

Schizophr Res Cogn. 2020 May 19;21:100179. doi: 10.1016/j.scog.2020.100179. eCollection 2020 Sep.


Childhood trauma (CT) is a risk factor for schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSDs), and cognitive impairment is a core feature and a vulnerability marker of SSDs. Studies of the relationship between CT and cognitive impairment in SSDs are inconclusive. In addition, few studies have examined differential effects of CT subtypes, e.g. physical, sexual or emotional abuse/neglect, on cognitive functioning. The present study therefore aimed to examine the effects of CT and CT subtypes on cognitive impairment in SSD. Participants (n = 78) with SSDs completed a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire Short-Form (CTQ-SF). We compared global cognitive performance as well as scores in seven subdomains (verbal abilities, visuospatial abilities, learning, memory, attention/working memory, executive abilities and processing speed) between participants reporting no CT and those reporting CT experiences using independent samples t-tests as well as linear regression analyses to control for possible confounders. CT subtype physical neglect was associated with attention and working memory after controlling for positive and negative psychosis symptoms, years of education, antipsychotics, gender and age, and adjustment of multiple testing. Our results indicate that the observed heterogeneity in cognitive impairment in SSDs, especially attention/working memory abilities, may in part be associated with childhood physical neglect.

Keywords: Adverse childhood experiences; Adversity; Neuropsychology; Psychosis.