Cognitive deficits in various domains have been consistently replicated in patients with schizophrenia. Most studies looking at the relationship between cognitive dysfunction and functional disability are from developed countries. Studies from developing countries are few. The purpose of the present study was to compare the neurocognitive function in patients with schizophrenia who were in remission with that of normal controls and to determine if there is a relationship between measures of cognition and functional disability.
This study was conducted in the Psychiatric Unit of a General Hospital in Mumbai, India. Cognitive function in 25 patients with schizophrenia in remission was compared to 25 normal controls. Remission was confirmed using the brief psychiatric rating scale (BPRS) and scale for the assessment of negative symptoms (SANS). Subjects were administered a battery of cognitive tests covering aspects of memory, executive function and attention. The results obtained were compared between the groups. Correlation analysis was used to look for relationship between illness factors, cognitive function and disability measured using the Indian disability evaluation and assessment scale.
Patients with schizophrenia showed significant deficits on tests of attention, concentration, verbal and visual memory and tests of frontal lobe/executive function. They fared worse on almost all the tests administered compared to normal controls. No relationship was found between age, duration of illness, number of years of education and cognitive function. In addition, we did not find a statistically significant relationship between cognitive function and scores on the disability scale.
The data suggests that persistent cognitive deficits are seen in patients with schizophrenia under remission. The cognitive deficits were not associated with symptomatology and functional disability. It is possible that various factors such as employment and family support reduce disability due to schizophrenia in developing countries like India. Further studies from developing countries are required to explore the relationship between cognitive deficits, functional outcome and the role of socio-cultural variables as protective factors.