Relapse, cognitive reserve, and their relationship with cognition in first episode schizophrenia: a 3-year follow-up study

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Schizophrenia is frequently characterized by the presence of multiple relapses. Cognitive impairments are core features of schizophrenia. Cognitive reserve (CR) is the ability of the brain to compensate for damage caused by pathologies such as psychotic illness. As cognition is related to CR, the study of the relationship between relapse, cognition and CR may broaden our understanding of the course of the disease. We aimed to determine whether relapse was associated with cognitive impairment, controlling for the effects of CR. Ninety-nine patients with a remitted first episode of schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorder were administered a set of neuropsychological tests to assess premorbid IQ, attention, processing speed, working memory, verbal and visual memory, executive functions and social cognition. They were followed up for 3 years (n=53) or until they relapsed (n=46). Personal and familial CR was estimated from a principal component analysis of the premorbid information gathered. Linear mixed-effects models were applied to analyse the effect of time and relapse on cognitive function, with CR as covariate. Patients who relapsed and had higher personal CR showed less deterioration in attention, whereas those with higher CR (personal and familial CR) who did not relapse showed better performance in processing speed and visual memory. Taken together, CR seems to ameliorate the negative effects of relapse on attention performance and shows a positive effect on processing speed and visual memory in those patients who did not relapse. Our results add evidence for the protective effect of CR over the course of the illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
StatePublished - Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Pharmacology


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