Lifespan evolution of neurocognitive impairment in schizophrenia - A narrative review

Anne Kathrin J. Fett, Abraham Reichenberg, Eva Velthorst*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Cognitive impairment is a well-recognized key feature of schizophrenia. Here we review the evidence on (1) the onset and sensitive periods of change in cognitive impairment before and after the first psychotic episode, and (2) heterogeneity in neurocognitive presentations across cognitive domains between and within individuals. Overall, studies suggest that mild cognitive impairment in individuals who develop schizophrenia or related disorders is already present during early childhood. Cross-sectional studies further suggest increasing cognitive impairments from pre- to post-psychosis onset, with the greatest declines between adolescence, the prodrome, and the first psychotic episode and with some variability between domains. Longitudinal studies with more than 10 years of observation time are scarce but support mild cognitive declines after psychosis onset until late adulthood. Whether and how much this cognitive decline exceeds normal aging, proceeds further in older patients, and is specific to certain cognitive domains and subpopulations of patients remains to be investigated. Finally, studies show substantial heterogeneity in cognitive performance in schizophrenia and suggest a variety of impairment profiles. This review highlights a clear need for long-term studies that include a control group and individuals from adolescence to old age to better understand critical windows of cognitive change and their predictors. The available evidence stresses the importance of interventions that aim to counter cognitive decline during the prodromal years, as well as careful assessment of cognition in order to determine who will profit most from which cognitive training.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100237
JournalSchizophrenia Research: Cognition
Early online date20 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Cognition
  • Heterogeneity
  • Lifespan
  • Schizophrenia


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