Cognitive impairment in schizophrenia.
Cognitive functioning is moderately to severely impaired in patients with schizophrenia. This impairment is the prime driver of the significant disabilities in occupational, social, and economic functioning in patients with schizophrenia and an important treatment target. The profile of deficits in schizophrenia includes many of the most important aspects of human cognition: attention, memory, reasoning, and processing speed. While various efforts are under way to identify specific aspects of neurocognition that may lie closest to the neurobiological etiology and pathophysiology of the illness, and may provide relevant convergence with animal models of cognition, standard neuropsychological measures continue to demonstrate the greatest sensitivity to functionally relevant cognitive impairment.The effects of antipsychotic medications on cognition in schizophrenia and first-episode psychosis appear to be minimal. Important work on the effects of add-on pharmacologic treatments is ongoing. Very few of the studies completed to date have had sufficient statistical power to generate firm conclusions; recent studies examining novel add-on treatments have produced some encouraging findings. Cognitive remediation programs have generated considerable interest as these methods are far less costly than pharmacologic treatment and are likely to be safer. A growing consensus suggests that these interventions produce modest gains for patients with schizophrenia, but the efficacy of the various methods used has not been empirically investigated.
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