A systematic review of premorbid cognitive functioning and its timing of onset in schizophrenia spectrum disorders

Cognitive impairments are core features of established schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD).

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Abstract

However, it remains unclear whether specific cognitive functions are differentially impaired pre-onset and at what age these impairments can be detected. The purpose of this review was to elucidate these issues through a systematic summary of results from longitudinal studies investigating impairment in specific cognitive domains as antecedents of SSD.

Relevant studies were identified by electronic and manual literature searches and included any original study of cognitive domains any time pre-onset of SSDs that included a control group. Effect sizes were calculated by domain for studies comparing high-risk participants who developed SSD with those who did not.

The strongest evidence for impairment pre-onset was for mental processing speed, verbal learning and memory, executive function, and social cognition. Some verbal impairments, like language abilities at age 3 and verbal learning and memory at age 7, may develop as static deficits. Conversely, some non-verbal impairments, like mental processing speed, visuospatial abilities, and visual working memory manifest as developmental lag and become significant later in life. Most effect sizes were small to moderate, except for verbal fluency (d′ = 0,85), implying this impairment as central in high-risk participants who develop SSD.

The present review documents extensive cognitive impairments pre-onset of SSD, and that these impairments start early in life, in line with the neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia. Increased knowledge about cognitive impairments preonset can provide a better basis for understanding the complex pathogenesis of SSD as well as informing cognitive remediation programs.

Schizofrenia Research: Cognition, 2022, 28, doi.org/10.1016/j. scog.2022.100246

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Published Apr. 11, 2022 6:00 AM