Psychological Medicine

Spatial working memory ability is a marker of risk-for-psychosis

S. J. WOOD a1c1, C. PANTELIS a1, T. PROFFITT a1, L. J. PHILLIPS a1, G. W. STUART a1, J.-A. BUCHANAN a1, K. MAHONY a1, W. BREWER a1, D. J. SMITH a1 and P. D. McGORRY a1
a1 Cognitive Neuropsychiatry Research & Academic Unit and PACE Clinic, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Sunshine Hospital, Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria and ORYGEN Research Centre, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Article author query
wood s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
pantelis c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
proffitt t   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
phillips l   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
stuart g   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
buchanan j-a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
mahony k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
brewer w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
smith d   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
mcgorry p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background. Working memory has been identified as a core cognitive deficit in schizophrenia that is associated with negative symptoms, but it is unclear whether it is impaired prior to onset of psychosis in symptomatic patients.

Method. Thirty-eight young people at ultra high-risk (UHR) of developing psychosis (of whom nine later became psychotic) were compared with 49 healthy controls on tests of spatial working memory (SWM) and delayed matching-to-sample (DMTS).

Results. Both SWM and DMTS performance was significantly poorer in the UHR groups. Those who later became psychotic generally performed more poorly than those who did not, although this did not reach significance for any measure. A significant association between SWM errors and negative symptoms was seen in the later-psychotic group only (P=0·02).

Conclusions. Spatial working memory abilities are impaired in those at high-risk for psychosis. The relationship between working memory and negative symptoms may be useful as a predictive tool.

c1 Dr Stephen J. Wood, Cognitive Research and Academic Unit, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne and Sunshine Hospital, Furlong Road, St Albans, VIC 3021, Australia.