Similar impairments shown on a neuropsychological test battery in adolescents with high-functioning autism and early onset schizophrenia: a two-year follow-up study

Cognitive impairments are common in both Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and schizophrenia, but it is unclear whether the pattern of difficulties is similar or different in the two disorders.

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Introduction: This cross-sectional and longitudinal study compared the neuropsychological functioning in adolescents with ASD with adolescents with Early Onset Schizophrenia (EOS).

Methods: At baseline and at two-year follow-up, participants were assessed with a brief neuropsychological test battery measuring executive functions, visual and verbal learning, delayed recall and recognition and psychomotor speed.

Results: We found similar levels of neuropsychological impairment across groups and over time in the adolescents with ASD or EOS. Adolescents in both groups did not improve significantly on verbal learning, verbal delayed recall, visual learning, visual delayed recall or visual delayed recognition, and both groups performed poorer on verbal recognition. Both groups improved on measures of psychomotor processing and executive functions.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that it may be difficult to differentiate adolescents with EOS and ASD based on neuropsychological task performance. An implication of the results is that adolescents with either disorder may benefit from a similar approach to the treatment of cognitive impairment in the disorders.

Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 2020, doi: 10.1080/13546805.2020.1713736.

Published Mar. 16, 2020 6:00 AM