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David Baxter

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Attention deficits endure in schizophrenia patients
30 March 2007
Schizophr Res 2007; 91: 107?111

Attention deficits are a persistent feature of schizophrenia, say researchers, who found that treatment improved concentration but not to levels seen in mentally healthy individuals.

"As a core deficit and a major impediment to daily functioning, including social problem solving, impaired attention is particularly important to target for remediation," say Josette Harris (University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, USA) and colleagues.

The researchers explored the short-term effects of 2 weeks' hospitalization on attention dysfunction in 14 individuals with schizophrenia. The findings were compared with those for 16 mentally healthy individuals.

Scores on the Positive and Negative Syndrome scale remained relatively stable over the course of the 2 weeks in both groups.

Concentration performance improved in both groups, but to a greater degree among mentally healthy individuals. Only the seven patients who started taking medication at 2 weeks experienced significant gains, the researchers report.

The average attention performance of these patients improved by 39.7 points, compared with an average of 13.7 points for the seven patients who were already taking medication when they were admitted.

"It is important to note that the patients admitted on medication had better attention performance at baseline than the unmedicated patients, and at the second session, the two groups performed essentially equivalently," the researchers note in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

"This provides further evidence for the suggestion that treatment with antipsychotics, either short-term as in the case of our unmedicated group, or longer-term as in the case of the already medicated group, has a positive impact on attention deficits."

Harris et al point out, however, that even with antipsychotic treatment the attention levels of the patients with schizophrenia did not reach those of the mentally healthy individuals.

They conclude: "The current findings support the contention that attention deficits are likely not a direct result of symptom severity and may at least partially be ameliorated by atypical antipsychotic treatment."

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