Neuropsychological differences between treatment-resistant and treatment-responsive schizophrenia: a meta-analysis

Edward Millgate, Olga Hide, Stephen M Lawrie, Robin M Murray, James H MacCabe, Eugenia Kravariti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Antipsychotic treatment resistance affects up to a third of individuals with schizophrenia. Of those affected, 70-84% are reported to be treatment resistant from the outset. This raises the possibility that the neurobiological mechanisms of treatment resistance emerge before the onset of psychosis and have a neurodevelopmental origin. Neuropsychological investigations can offer important insights into the nature, origin and pathophysiology of treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS), but methodological limitations in a still emergent field of research have obscured the neuropsychological discriminability of TRS. We report on the first systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate neuropsychological differences between TRS patients and treatment-responsive controls across 17 published studies (1864 participants). Five meta-analyses were performed in relation to (1) executive function, (2) general cognitive function, (3) attention, working memory and processing speed, (4) verbal memory and learning, and (5) visual-spatial memory and learning. Small-to-moderate effect sizes emerged for all domains. Similarly to previous comparisons between unselected, drug-naïve and first-episode schizophrenia samples v. healthy controls in the literature, the largest effect size was observed in verbal memory and learning [ dl = -0.53; 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.29 to -0.76; z = 4.42; p < 0.001]. A sub-analysis of language-related functions, extracted from across the primary domains, yielded a comparable effect size ( dl = -0.53, 95% CI -0.82 to -0.23; z = 3.45; p < 0.001). Manipulating our sampling strategy to include or exclude samples selected for clozapine response did not affect the pattern of findings. Our findings are discussed in relation to possible aetiological contributions to TRS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Humans
  • Antipsychotic Agents/therapeutic use
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychotic Disorders/psychology
  • Schizophrenia/drug therapy


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