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What do we know about neuropsychological aspects of schizophrenia?

  • Author(s): Palmer, BW
  • Dawes, SE
  • Heaton, RK
  • et al.
Abstract

Application of a neuropsychological perspective to the study of schizophrenia has established a number of important facts about this disorder. Some of the key findings from the existing literature are that, while neurocognitive impairment is present in most, if not all, persons with schizophrenia, there is both substantial interpatient heterogeneity and remarkable within-patient stability of cognitive function over the long-term course of the illness. Such findings have contributed to the firm establishment of neurobiologic models of schizophrenia, and thereby help to reduce the social stigma that was sometimes associated with purely psychogenic models popular during parts of the 20th century. Neuropsychological studies in recent decades have established the primacy of cognitive functions over psychopathologic symptoms as determinants of functional capacity and independence in everyday functioning. Although the cognitive benefits of both conventional and even second generation antipsychotic medications appear marginal at best, recognition of the primacy of cognitive deficits as determinants of functional disability in schizophrenia has catalyzed recent efforts to develop targeted treatments for the cognitive deficits of this disorder. Despite these accomplishments, however, some issues remain to be resolved. Efforts to firmly establish the specific neurocognitive/neuropathologic systems responsible for schizophrenia remain elusive, as do efforts to definitively demonstrate the specific cognitive deficits underlying specific forms of functional impairment. Further progress may be fostered by recent initiatives to integrate neuropsychological studies with experimental neuroscience, perhaps leading to measures of deficits in cognitive processes more clearly associated with specific, identifiable brain systems. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

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