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04-11-2013 | Mental health | Article

Lack of neurocognitive gender differences in early psychosis


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medwireNews: Impairments in neurocognition do not occur at a higher rate in males than in females at the onset of psychosis, suggest findings published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry.

However, Rosa Ayesa–Arriola (University of Cantabria, Santander, Spain) and colleagues identified a subgroup of female patients with late-onset psychosis who showed significant differences in the degree and pattern of cognitive impairment compared with male patients.

The researchers say this is one of the largest studies of neurocognition gender differences in first-episode psychosis patients, using comprehensive neuropsychologic testing and a healthy control group. Patients were tested between week 6 and 13 after their first psychotic episode.

Comparison of test results from 74 women and 86 men with first-episode psychosis revealed that gender had no significant effect on neurocognitive performance. However, women scored higher than men on verbal memory (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test score of 44.0 vs 41.0). Conversely, men scored higher than women on reaction time (Continuous Performance Test score; 532.0 vs 559.6 ms), visual memory (Corsi blocks backward score; 5.0 vs 4.5), and executive functions (Tower of London total move score; 39.9 vs 47.5).

A group of 159 healthy controls also studied outperformed the patient group in virtually all neuropsychologic tests. The researchers note that, as seen in other studies, the gender differences on some of neurocognitive parameters were also observed in the control group.

Further analysis in patients with late-onset first-episode psychosis revealed that women outperformed men in verbal learning, while men outperformed women in measures of working memory, visuospatial abilities, and recall.

"These results confirm gender-related differences in certain neuropsychological domains,” say Ayesa–Arriola and team.

They add: “We consider this to be an interesting issue to be further explored in order to elucidate whether sex specific deficits require special rehabilitation programs for patients with schizophrenia."

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Ingrid Grasmo, medwireNews Reporter

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