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Associations between social cognition, skills, and function and subclinical negative and positive symptoms in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome

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BACKGROUND: Identification of the early signs of schizophrenia would be a major achievement for the early intervention and prevention strategies in psychiatry. Social impairments are defining features of schizophrenia. Impairments of individual layers of social competencies are frequently described in individuals with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS), who have high risk of schizophrenia. It is unclear whether and to what extent social impairments associate with subclinical negative and positive symptoms in 22q11.2DS, and which layer of social impairments are more correlated with schizophrenia-related symptoms. The aims of this study were to conduct a comprehensive investigation of social impairments at three different levels (function, skill, and cognition) and their interrelationship and to determine to what degree the social impairments correlate to subclinical levels of negative and positive symptoms, respectively, in a young cohort of 22q11.2DS not diagnosed with schizophrenia.

METHODS: The level of social impairment was addressed using questionnaires and objective measures of social functioning (The Adaptive Behavior Assessment System), skills (Social Responsiveness Scale), and cognition (The Awareness of Social Inference Test and CANTAB Emotional Recognition Task), and the presence of subclinical symptoms of schizophrenia were evaluated using the Structured Interview for Prodromal Syndromes in a cross-sectional case-control study of 29 cases and 29 controls, aged 12 to 25 years. Association between social impairment and negative and positive symptoms levels was examined in cases only.

RESULTS: Subjects with 22q11.2DS were highly impaired in social function, social skills, and social cognition (p ≤ 6.2 × 10(-9)) relative to control peers and presented with more negative (p = 5.8 × 10(-11)) and positive (p = 7.5 × 10(-4)) symptoms. In particular, social functional and skill levels were highly associated with notably subclinical negative symptoms levels.

CONCLUSIONS: This study shows strong correlations between levels of social impairments and subclinical negative and positive symptoms. However, longitudinal studies are required to show if social impairments represent early disease manifestations. If parental or self-reporting suggests severe social impairment, it should advocate for clinical awareness not only to social deficits per se but also of potential subclinical psychosis symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number42
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Volume8
Issue number1
Number of pages13
ISSN1866-1947
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

ID: 49284753