Understanding the Mechanisms of Cognitive Remediation on Recovery in People With Early Psychosis: A Mediation and Moderation Analysis

Rose Tinch-Taylor, Andrew Pickles, Dominic Stringer, Emese Csipke, Matteo Cella, Paul McCrone, Clare Reeder, Max Birchwood, David Fowler, Kathryn Greenwood, Sonia Johnson, Jesus Perez, Rosa Ritunnano, Andrew Thompson, Rachel Upthegrove, Jon Wilson, Alex Kenny, Iris Isok, Eileen M Joyce, Til Wykes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: To provide precision cognitive remediation therapy (CR) for schizophrenia, we need to understand whether the mechanism for improved functioning is via cognition improvements. This mechanism has not been rigorously tested for potential moderator effects.

STUDY DESIGN: We used data (n = 377) from a randomized controlled trial using CIRCuiTS, a therapist-supported CR, with participants from first-episode psychosis services. We applied structured equation modeling to test whether: (1) CR hours explain the goal attainment functional outcome (GAS) at posttreatment, (2) global cognitive improvement mediates GAS, and if (3) total symptoms moderate the CR hours to cognitive improvement pathway, and/or negative symptoms moderate the cognition to functioning pathway, testing moderator effects via the mediator or directly on CR hours to functioning path.

STUDY RESULTS: CR produced significant functioning benefit for each therapy hour (Coeff = 0.203, 95% CI 0.101-0.304, P < .001). The mediated path from CR hours to cognition and cognition to functioning was small and nonsignificant (Coeff = 0.014, 95% CI = -0.010, 0.037, P = .256). Total symptoms did not moderate the path to cognition (P = .211) or the direct path to outcome (P = .896). However, negative symptoms significantly moderated the effect of cognitive improvements on functioning (P = .015) with high negative symptoms reducing the functional gains of improved cognition.

CONCLUSIONS: Although cognitive improvements were correlated with functioning benefit, they did not fully explain the positive effect of increased therapy hours on functioning, suggesting additional CR factors also contribute to therapy benefit. Negative symptoms interfere with the translation of cognitive improvements into functional gains so need consideration.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Mar 2024


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