Neurocognitive subgroups among newly diagnosed patients with schizophrenia spectrum or bipolar disorders: A hierarchical cluster analysis

K W Miskowiak*, H L Kjærstad, C K Lemvigh, K S Ambrosen, M S Thorvald, L V Kessing, B Y Glenthoj, B H Ebdrup, B Fagerlund

*Corresponding author for this work


Studies across schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD) indicate common transdiagnostic neurocognitive subgroups. However, existing studies of patients with long-term illness precludes insight into whether impairments result from effects of chronic illness, medication or other factors. This study aimed to investigate whether neurocognitive subgroups across SZ and BD can be demonstrated during early illness stages. Data from overlapping neuropsychological tests were pooled from cohort studies of antipsychotic-naïve patients with first-episode SZ spectrum disorders (n = 150), recently diagnosed BD (n = 189) or healthy controls (HC) (n = 280). Hierarchical cluster analysis was conducted to examine if transdiagnostic subgroups could be identified based on the neurocognitive profile. Patterns of cognitive impairments and patient characteristics across subgroups were examined. Patients could be clustered into two, three and four subgroups, of which the three-cluster solution (with 83% accuracy) was selected for posthoc analyses. This solution revealed a subgroup covering 39% of patients (predominantly BD) who were cognitively relatively intact, a subgroup of 33% of patients (more equal distributions of SZ and BD) displaying selective deficits, particularly in working memory and processing speed, and a subgroup of 28% (mainly SZ) with global impairments. The globally impaired group exhibited lower estimated premorbid intelligence than the other subgroups. Globally impaired BD patients also showed more functional disability than cognitively relatively intact patients. No differences were observed across subgroups in symptoms or medications. Neurocognitive results can be understood by clustering analysis with similar clustering solutions occurring across diagnoses. The subgroups were not explained by clinical symptoms or medication, suggesting neurodevelopmental origins.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Pages (from-to)278-287
Number of pages10
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 May 2023


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