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Commonalities in social and non-social cognitive impairments in adults with autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia

​Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia are both conditions that are characterized by impairments in social and non-social cognition, yet commonalities in the magnitude and domains of cognitive deficits across these two conditions remain unclear. This study examined neurocognitive and social-cognitive functioning in 47 outpatients with schizophrenia, 43 verbal adults with ASD, and 24 healthy volunteers. A comprehensive neuropsychological battery assessing processing speed, attention, memory, and problem-solving domains was administered along with a social-cognitive battery of emotion processing. Results demonstrated large and significant impairments in emotion processing and neurocognition relative to healthy individuals in participants with autism (d=-.97 and -1.71, respectively) and schizophrenia (d=-.65 and -1.48, respectively). No significant differences were observed between those with ASD and schizophrenia on any cognitive domain assessed, and the areas of greatest impairment were identical across both disorders and included slowness in speed of processing and an inability to understand emotions. These findings indicate a high degree of similarity in the cognitive challenges experienced by verbal adults with autism and schizophrenia, and the potential need for trans-diagnostic remediation approaches to enhance cognition in these conditions.

Authors: Eack SM; Bahorik AL; McKnight SA; Hogarty SS; Greenwald DP; Newhill CE; Phillips ML; Keshavan MS; Minshew NJ

Schizophr Res. 2013 Aug;148(1-3):24-8. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2013.05.013. Epub 2013 Jun 13.

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