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Neuropsychol Rev. 2001 Mar;11(1):45-67.

Sources of heterogeneity in schizophrenia: the role of neuropsychological functioning.

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Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, Mason City, USA.


Although schizophrenia is often characterized as a heterogeneous disorder, efforts to validate stable and meaningful subtypes have met with limited success. Thus, the issue of whether schizophrenia reflects a continuum of severity or a number of discrete subtypes remains controversial. This review evaluates efforts to establish subtypes based upon a model that includes causes, characteristics, and course and outcomes of heterogeneity. Emphasis is placed on empirical classification studies utilizing cognitive tests or symptom rating scales, sometimes in conjunction with neuroimaging procedures. Results of recent cluster analytic studies are reviewed that produced evidence of four or five clusters, varying in level and pattern of performance. Although this research typically generated meaningful subtypes, it was often the case that there was little correspondence between subtyping systems based upon cognitive function and those based upon symptom profile. It was concluded that there may be different mechanisms for producing cognitive and symptomatic heterogeneity, and that diversity in presentations of schizophrenia reflects a combination of continuities in severity of the disorder with a number of meaningful and stable subtypes.

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