Characterising the structure of cognitive heterogeneity in schizophrenia spectrum disorders—A systematic review and narrative synthesis


Three distinct cognitive subgroups exist within SSD.

A subgroup characterised by relatively intact cognitive functioning.

An intermediate subgroup characterised by moderate/mixed levels of impairment.

A globally impaired subgroup characterised by severe cognitive dysfunction.


The aim of the present review was to systematically summarise our current understanding of the structure of the cognitive heterogeneity that exists within schizophrenia spectrum disorder (SSD). Fifty-two relevant studies were identified from January 1980 to March 2019 that investigated cognitive subgroups within SSD. Twenty-five studies employed classification criteria based on current neuropsychological function, 14 studies employed various data-driven subgrouping methodologies and 13 studies investigated putative cognitive symptom trajectories. Despite considerable methodological variability, three distinct cognitive subgroups reliability emerged; a relatively intact cognitive subgroup characterised by high cognitive performance, an intermediate cognitive subgroup defined by mixed or moderate levels of cognitive function/dysfunction and a globally impaired subgroup characterised by severe cognitive deficits. Whilst preliminary evidence suggests that these subgroups may have further investigative relevance in and of themselves, additional research is required and discussed. A set of reporting guidelines are also presented to overcome the methodological inconsistencies identified in the reviewed literature.






schizoaffective disorder




cognitive trajectory


global impairment

relatively intact


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I wonder what the defining characteristics of each subgroup would be. If cognitive dysfunction is present, did it precede the schizophrenia or did it occur as a result of developing schizophrenia?