Background: Kraepelin originally conceptualized schizophrenia as a degenerative brain disorder. It remains unclear whether the illness is characterized by a static encephalopathy or a deterioration of brain function, or periods of each condition. Assessments of cognitive function, as measured by neuropsychologic assessment, can provide additional insight into this question. Few studies of patients with schizophrenia have investigated the effect of aging on executive functions, in an extensive neuropsychologic battery across a wide age range, compared to healthy volunteers. Methods: We examined the interaction of aging and neuropsychologic function in schizophrenia through a cross-sectional study in patients (n = 87) and healthy control subjects (n = 94). Subjects were divided into three age groups (20-35, 36-49, and 50-75), and performance on an extensive neuropsychologic battery was evaluated. Results: Compared to control subjects, patients with schizophrenia demonstrated similar age-related declines across most neuropsychologic functions, with the exception of abstraction ability, in which significant evidence of a more accelerated decline was observed. Conclusions: These results are consistent with previous reports indicating similar age effects on most aspects of cognition in patients with schizophrenia and healthy adults, but they support the hypothesis that a degenerative process may result in a more accelerated decline of some executive functions in older age in schizophrenia. (C) 2000 Society of Biological Psychiatry.
- Executive functions