Objective: To assess the nature of learning and verbal memory deficits in adolescents with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders (SzS) (i.e., schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophreniform disorder). Method: Sixty patients with SzS (mean age = 16.1 years, S.D. = 2.2) and 60 age- and gender-matched diagnosis-free healthy volunteers were assessed using the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT). Planned analyses were conducted to assess the following aspects of memory: span of apprehension, verbal learning, short-term and long-term memory, rate of forgetting, interference, and organizational strategies. Adolescents with schizophrenia (Sz) were compared to those with schizoaffective disorder (SzA). Second, patients' test profiles were compared to those of controls. Relationships between initial learning and overall verbal learning with organizational strategy were explored. Results: Neurocognitive profiles did not significantly differ between Sz and SzA participants. Patients performed significantly worse than healthy comparison subjects on measures of span of apprehension, verbal learning, short- and long-term memory, and organizational strategies after adjusting for differences in premorbid intelligence. No group differences were found in rate of forgetting or susceptibility to proactive or retroactive interference. Conclusions: Adolescents with SzS are characterized by significant verbal memory dysfunction similar to what has been observed in adults with first-episode schizophrenia. Deficits in consistency of learning over several trials, as well as a strong relationship between semantic organizational strategies and reduced learning capacity, implicate dysfunction of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex as a contributor to verbal memory deficits in adolescents with SzS.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported in part by grants from NARSAD (SK, as a Lieber Investigator) and the National Institute of Mental Health to Dr. Kumra (MH01990).
Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
- Semantic organization
- Verbal memory deficits