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08-11-2011 | Mental health | Article

Depression linked to improved cognition in geriatric schizophrenia patients


Free abstract

MedWire News: Higher levels of depression are associated with better attention and verbal memory in geriatric patients with schizophrenia, US research shows.

"Past reports have found patients with comorbid depression and schizophrenia spectrum disorders exhibit greater deficits in memory and attention compared to schizophrenia spectrum disorder patients without depressive symptoms," explain Mark Serper (Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York) and Emily D'Antonio (St John's Episcopal Hospital, Far Rockaway, New York).

"However, in contrast to younger schizophrenia patients, the few past studies using cognitive screens to examine the relationship between depression and cognition in inpatient geriatric schizophrenia have found that depressive symptomatology was associated with relatively enhanced cognitive performance," they add.

To investigate further, the researchers studied 71 geriatric inpatients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders who were aged an average of 63.7 years.

The participants were assessed for depression using the Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia (CDSS) and completed a comprehensive battery of cognitive tests, including the California Verbal Learning Test - Adult Version (CVLT-A), the Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA), and the Social Adaptive Functioning Evaluation.

In total, 36% of participants displayed no symptoms of depression, with a score of 0 on the CDSS, and 35% had a score of 6 or higher, indicating significant depressive symptoms.

The researchers found that higher levels of depression were associated with better attention and memory performance on the CVLT-A and the TOVA assessments.

Indeed, depression independently predicted a significant amount of variance in memory and attentional ability, after accounting for age and psychosis symptoms.

However, there was no significant association between depression levels and global cognitive functioning or adaptive functioning, the researchers note.

Serper and D'Antonio conclude in the journal Schizophrenia Research: "Contrary to patterns typically seen in younger patients and non-patient groups, increasing depression severity is associated with enhancement of memory and attention in geriatric schizophrenia spectrum disorder patients.

"Also, diverging from younger samples, depression severity was unassociated with patients adaptive and global cognitive functioning."

They add: "Future studies should explore whether this relationship is unique to geriatric patients, unique to patients living in restrictive settings, or to patients who are both geriatric and living in restrictive settings."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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