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Schizophr Res. 2007 Jul;93(1-3):266-77. Epub 2007 Apr 30.

Neurocognitive deficits in the (putative) prodrome and first episode of psychosis.

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  • 1University of Utah, USA.



International research programs have contributed to the creation of operationally defined criteria to identify individuals at risk for schizophrenia. Although there has been substantial progress in the prospective study of the schizophrenia prodrome, the utility of current diagnostic criteria remains questionable because of the relatively low base rates of incident psychoses, the high false-positive rate and ethical concerns regarding the treatment of individuals at risk. The identification of brain based neurocognitive vulnerability markers for schizophrenia may contribute to the development of an at risk algorithm with greater predictive accuracy.


Forty subjects at risk (AR) for schizophrenia, 15 in their first episode (FE) of schizophrenia, and 36 healthy comparison (HC) subjects were administered a neurocognitive battery that assessed the domains of processing speed, working memory, verbal episodic memory, executive functioning and general intelligence.


At baseline, AR subjects showed neurocognitive deficits across all domains compared to HC subjects that were less severe than those observed in the FE sample. In preliminary analyses, AR subjects who later converted to psychosis (N=5) had greater neurocognitive impairment at baseline evaluation compared to those individuals who remained "at risk" at follow-up.


Neurocognitive deficits may be important in the pathogenesis of early psychosis and could help to define individuals at greatest risk for schizophrenia. Continued research in larger cohorts is needed to test the validity of this neurocognitive profile and its utility as a vulnerability marker.

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