Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder characterized by a wide range of cognitive, emotional and social functioning impairments. Memory impairment is one of the most prominent impairments observed in patients with schizophrenia. Recent findings suggest that patients with schizophrenia not only suffer from remembering important events from the past but also show impairments in carrying out an intended action in the future. Such a memory to remember to complete a previously formed intention is known as prospective memory. Accumulating evidence also suggests that prospective memory impairment has been observed in individuals at different stages of schizophrenia. However, it is not clear whether prospective memory may play an important impact upon the clinical and functional outcome of patients with schizophrenia.
Dr. Raymond Chan from the Neuropsychology and Applied Cognitive Neuroscience (NACN) Laboratory, CAS Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology has collaborated with Dr. Simon Lui from the University of Hong Kong to conduct a longitudinal study to examine specifically the relationship between prospective memory and social functioning in a group of patients with first-episode schizophrenia. In so doing, they recruited 119 people with first-episode schizophrenia and followed up them for two to six years. Prospective memory and working memory were assessed at baseline using computerized tasks. Psychopathology and social functioning were assessed at end-point. They also conducted network analysis to examine the effect of baseline prospective memory and social functioning, while accounting for the effects of psychopathology.
Their findings showed that social functioning, positive and general psychopathology symptoms formed a cluster, whereas time-based and event-based prospective memory and working memory clustered to be another subgroup. Time-based and event-based prospective memory as well as working memory showed high values of expected influence, but social functioning and negative symptoms and general psychopathology symptoms of schizophrenia showed high values of predictability. These findings suggest that prospective memory at the baseline could influence schizophrenia individuals’ social functioning beyond two years after psychosis onset. Together with working memory, prospective memory appears to be suitable treatment targets for improving the outcome of psychopathology and social functioning in patients with schizophrenia.
This study was supported by the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology and the Phillip K.H. Wong Foundation.
This paper was published online in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry on Feb 8, 2022.
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Ms. LIU Chen
Institute of Psychology Chinese Academy of Sciences
Beijing 100101, China.