Neuropsychological impairment and psychopathology in first-episode schizophrenic patients related to the early course of illness

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The objective of the present study was to explore whether the early course of illness including first onset of psychotic symptoms influences neuropsychological functioning and psychopathology in first-episode schizophrenics. Patients with a short prodromal period (n = 20) and patients with a long prodromal period (n = 20) and controls matched with regard to age, gender and education (n = 40) were administered a battery of standardized neuropsychological tests and psychopathological rating scales. The results indicate an overall difference in neuropsychological performance with the schizophrenic patients scoring lower than controls. Schizophrenic patients scored significantly lower in all subtests except in visual memory and abstraction/flexibility than controls. No significant difference between neuropsychological performance between patient samples was found. Psychopathology was more pronounced in the long prodromal period group rating higher on negative and affective symptoms compared with the short prodromal period group. The data suggests that neuropsychological deficits in first-episode schizophrenia are independent of the early course of schizophrenia, and although negative symptoms are associated with the length of the prodromal period, they do not imply greater neuropsychological impairment.

Received: 30 May 1997 / Accepted: 10 October 1997