By On August 7th, 2014

New Study Links Cognition and Motivation in Schizophrenia Patients

Motivation and cognitive abilities are more closely associated in individuals with schizophrenia according to new research published in JAMA Psychiatry, which suggests that neurocognitive tests are more than “purely a measure of ability” as lead researcher Gagan Fervaha from the University of Toronto and colleagues explained.

Fervaha and colleagues found a link in 431 patients who were involved in the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE). The trials measured general trait-like motivation using the sense of purpose, motivation, and curiosity items from the Intrapsychic Foundations subscale of the Heinrichs-Carpenter Quality of Life Scale.

“We wish to emphasize that […] the present results do not suggest that the full extent and degree of cognitive impairment in schizophrenia result from motivational impairments”, the researchers clarified in their report.

Each individual item of intrinsic motivation was nonetheless correlated with each cognitive measure, although the strongest association was seen for processing speed. Reasoning and vigilance were the least affected.

As Medwire News highlights however, Richard Keefe from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina cautioned in an accompanying editorial against findings like these which “[put] us back into the position of blaming people with schizophrenia for their illness.”

“The self-defeat that is generated from this cycle of prodromal impairment adds another important dimension to the cycle, which likely leads to further social isolation, the single strongest predictor of psychosis”, says Keefe.

He concludes: “Treatments that target these aspects of schizophrenia before psychosis emerges have the potential to interrupt the illness before it progresses on its devastating course.”

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