Working memory in first-episode schizophrenic patients and their healthy siblings

Vol VIII, No. 1, 2008 Comments (0)

University of Medicine & Pharmacy “Iuliu Haţieganu” Cluj-Napoca,
Second Psychiatric Clinic Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Second Psychiatric Clinic Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Background: Working memory deficits are considered endophenotypes for schizophrenia. Therefore, they are present in ill subjects prior to the onset of the disorder, during the evolution of the disorder as well as in healthy relatives.
Aims: The purpose of this study was to examine the working memory of first episode schizophrenia patients (FEP) and their healthy siblings. In addition, we examined the relationship between the duration of untreated psychosis (DUP), the global functioning, symptoms, and cognitive function in first episode patients.
Methods: 49 first episode inpatients, 25 healthy siblings and 41 healthy volunteers were recruited. Patients were diagnosed using the SCID for DSM-IV disorders, assessed with the PANSS and Global Assessment of Functioning scale (GAF). DUP was calculated by means of multiple-source interviews, with patients and relatives. The Rey Auditory Verbal Test (RAVT), the Paired Associates Learning Test (PAL), the Spatial Span Test (SSP) and the Spatial Working Memory Test (SWM) from the CANTAB were administrated to all subjects.
Results: Patients had an average duration of untreated psychosis of 303.10 days. The overall performance of first episode schizophrenia patients was significantly lower compared to healthy individuals on all cognitive tasks, with the exception of the errors on the SSP. Healthy siblings had intermediate scores; they performed similar to controls on some tasks (RAVLT – retroactive inference, delayed recall, recognition, PAL first trial score and on the number of completed stages), and lower on others (RAVLT – immediate memory, total learning, proactive inference, PAL total errors and the stages completed on the first trial).
Discussion and conclusions: A significant correlation between the DUP and the PANSS general symptoms scores and low general function could be established. However, there were no significant correlations between DUP and cognitive tasks.

Keywords: working memory, first episode of schizophrenia, siblings, CANTAB
Pages: 17-30

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