Investigating potential associations between neurocognition/social cognition and oxidative stress in schizophrenia

Psychiatry Res. 2021 Apr;298:113832. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2021.113832. Epub 2021 Feb 23.


Introduction: Deficits in neurocognition and social cognition play a critical role in the functional impairment of patients with schizophrenia. Increased oxidative stress has been evidenced in schizophrenia. Increased oxidative stress can affect neuronal function and lead to impairments in neurocognitive functions (especially working memory) and social cognition.

Objective: To investigate deficits in neurocognition and social cognition and their potential association with oxidative stress biomarkers in schizophrenia.

Material and methods: Eight-five clinically stable patients with schizophrenia and 75 controls were enrolled in this study. Neurocognition was evaluated through the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia (BACS). Social cognition was assessed through the Hinting Task - a test of theory of mind - and an emotion processing test, Facial Emotion Recognition Test (FERT-100). Oxidative stress was assessed by measuring serum levels of glutathione (GSH) and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS).

Results: Patients had decreased serum levels of GSH (Z=3.56; p<0.001) and increased TBARS (Z=5.51; P<0.001) when compared with controls. TBARS levels are higher in patients using first generation antipsychotics. Higher serum levels of TBARS in patients were associated with poor performance in working memory test (r=-0.39; p=0.002), even when controlling for age and negative symptoms (Standard Beta: -0.36; CI= -2.52 a -13.71).

Discussion: The association between greater lipid peroxidation, as assessed by TBARS, and worse performance in working memory corroborates theoretical models of greater vulnerability of schizophrenia to oxidative stress.

Keywords: Neurocognition; Oxidative stress; Schizophrenia; Social cognition; Working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Schizophrenia* / complications
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Social Cognition