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11-07-2013 | Mental health | Article

Neurocognitive measures predict psychosis transition


Free abstract

medwireNews: Working memory and visual learning performance may be useful for predicting which individuals at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis will transition to full psychosis, say researchers.

Their literature review and meta-analysis showed that individuals at CHR for psychosis who transitioned to full psychosis had significantly worse performances in these cognitive domains than their high-risk peers who did not transition.

"The addition of visual learning and working memory tasks to psychosis regression models might contribute to the predictive power of these models," says the team led by Amber De Herdt (KU Leuven, Belgium).

A total of nine studies comprising 583 CHR individuals - 195 of whom transitioned to psychosis - were studied.

The neurocognitive tests assessed were all classified within the Measurement and Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia (MATRICS) cognitive domains.

Working memory and visual learning performances were the only cognitive domains to differentiate between individuals who did and did not transition to psychosis, although the differences were "rather small," the researchers note, with effect sizes of -0.29 and -0.40, respectively.

Nevertheless, the results "are consistent with previous longitudinal studies," they comment in Schizophrenia Research.

By contrast, there was no significant difference between the two groups in processing speed, attention/vigilance, verbal learning, or reasoning.

While the working memory and visual learning cognitive domains may go some way to predicting psychosis transition, De Herdt and colleagues report that the combination of cognitive assessments with structural assessments may improve psychosis transition prediction.

Such studies have already shown memory impairment to be sensitive to and linked to hippocampal damage in individuals at CHR for psychosis, they note.

Therefore, "future studies that combine structural and functional measures could provide more sensitive [neurocognitive] markers to identify transition to psychosis than each of these measures separately," they conclude.

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

By Lucy Piper, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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