A novel, online social cognitive training program for young adults with schizophrenia: A pilot study

Mor Nahum, Melissa Fisher, Rachel Loewy, Gina Poelke, Joseph Ventura, Keith H. Nuechterlein, Christine I. Hooker, Michael F. Green, Michael M. Merzenich, Sophia Vinogradov

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77 Scopus citations


Background: Pervasive social cognition deficits are evident early in the course of schizophrenia and are directly linked to functional outcome, making them an important target for intervention. Here, we tested the feasibility of use, and initiated the evaluation of efficacy, of a novel, neuroplasticity-based online training program (SocialVille) in young adults with schizophrenia. Methods: Schizophrenia patients (n. = 17) completed 24 hours of online SocialVille game play either from home or at a clinic, over a 6-10 week period. We examined training feasibility, gains on the SocialVille exercises relative to matched healthy controls (n. = 17), and changes on measures of social cognition, social functioning, global functioning and motivation. Results: Subjects adhered to training requirements, and rated SocialVille in the medium to high range in satisfaction, enjoyment, and ease of use. Subjects demonstrated significant, large improvements on the speeded SocialVille tasks, and small to moderate improvements on the working memory tasks. Post-training performance on the SocialVille tasks were similar to initial performance of the healthy controls. Subjects also showed improvements on standard measures of social cognition, social functioning, and motivation. No improvements were recorded for emotion recognition indices of the MSCEIT, or on quality of life scales. Conclusion: This study provides an initial proof of concept for online social cognition training in schizophrenia. This form of training demonstrated feasibility and resulted in within-subject gains in social functioning and motivation. This pilot study represents a first step towards validating this training approach; randomized controlled trials, now underway, are designed to confirm and extend these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e11-e19
JournalSchizophrenia Research: Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The social cognitive training software used in this study (SocialVille) was developed by Posit Science. Dr. Nahum is a paid employee of Posit Science and was the main developer of the program. In addition, she received SBIR grant from NIMH to develop and test the SocialVille software. Dr. Merzenich is the founder and CSO of Posit Science. Drs. Vinogradov, Hooker, Green and Ventura are paid consultants to Posit Science and were all involved in the construction of the training program. Dr. Nuechterlein is an unpaid consultant to Posit Science, and holds research grants from Janssen Scientific Affairs and Genentech. He serves as a consultant to Otsuka and Genentech. Dr. Vinogradov serves on advisory boards for Genentech, Envivo, and Hoffman-LaRoche. Dr. Green reports having been a consultant to Abbott Laboratories (AbbVie), Biogen, DSP and Roche. He is a member of the scientific board for Mnemosyne, and has received research funds from Amgen. Dr. Ventura has received research support from Brain Plasticity Inc. (a company merged with Posit Science) and from Janssen Scientific Affairs. Dr. Loewy has received research funding from Genentech.

Funding Information:
The study was funded by a National Institute of Mental Health SBIR Grant (1R43MH091793-01A1) to author M.N.


  • Cognitive remediation
  • Computerized training
  • Early psychosis
  • First episode
  • Social cognition


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