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Theory of mind and neurocognition in early psychosis: a quasi-experimental study


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Abstract (provisional)

BackgroundPeople with chronic psychosis often display theory of mind impairments that are not fully accounted for by other, more general neurocognitive deficits. In these patients, both theory of mind and neurocognitive deficits contribute to poor functioning, independently of psychotic symptoms. In young people with recent-onset psychosis, however, it is unclear the extent to which theory of mind impairment is independent of neurocognitive deficits. The primary aim of this study was to examine the evidence for specific theory of mind impairments in early psychosis. A secondary aim was to explore the relations between theory of mind, neurocognition, symptom severity, and functional outcomes.MethodsTwenty-three patients who were within two years of their first psychotic episode and 19 healthy controls completed theory of mind and neurocognitive batteries. Social functioning, quality of life, and symptom severity were also assessed in patients.ResultsPatients demonstrated deficits in tasks assessing theory of mind and neurocognition relative to controls. Patients? deficits in theory of mind were evident even after adjusting for their deficits in neurocognition. Neither theory of mind nor neurocognition predicted social functioning or quality of life in this early psychosis sample. Severity of negative symptoms, however, was a significant predictor of both outcomes.ConclusionsWhile a specific theory of mind impairment was evident in this early psychosis sample, severity of negative symptoms emerged as the best predictor of poor functional outcome. Further early psychosis research is needed to examine the longitudinal progression of theory of mind impairments ? independent of neurocognitive deficits ? and their impact on psychosocial function.