Smoking in schizophrenia: cognitive impact of nicotine and relationship to smoking motivators
OBJECTIVE To review the literature on neurocognitive measures as risk markers for schizophrenia and to present data from the Perth family study of schizophrenia. Of all the risk markers that have been identified, the most promising are deficits in sustained attention. METHOD Inclusion in the review was determined by whether the research addressed a number of key questions: methods of assessing sustained attention; evidence of sustained attention deficits in patients and first-degree relatives including children; the importance of attentional dysfunction in the schizophrenic process and functional outcome; and the biological basis of sustained attention deficits. RESULTS Sustained attention deficits are evident in both patients and a proportion of their first-degree relatives, a finding replicated in preliminary data from the Perth family study. The literature suggests that the attention deficit is a stable enduring trait that is independent of clinical state. The neural basis of the deficit may be a functional disconnection between prefrontal and parietal cortex. Attention impairment is an important predictor of functional outcome in patients and the development of social dysfunction in adulthood in the at-risk offspring of patients. However, sustained attention deficits that are measured in childhood results in an unacceptable high false-positive rate (21%) when predicting which at-risk offspring of parents with schizophrenia will develop a schizophrenia spectrum disorder, although the overall classification accuracy (78%) is impressive. CONCLUSIONS The main findings are that sustained attention deficits are important risk markers for schizophrenia but need to be supplemented by other neurocognitive risk markers to improve predictive accuracy.