Introduction: Cognitive deficits are present in some, but not all patients with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders (SSD). We and others have demonstrated three cognitive clusters: cognitively intact patients, patients with deficits in a few domains and those with global cognitive deficits. This study aimed to identify cognitive subtypes of early-phase SSD with matched controls as a reference group, and evaluated cognitive subgroups regarding clinical and brain volumetric measures.
Methods: Eighty-six early-phase SSD patients were included. Hierarchical cluster analysis was conducted using global performance on the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia (BACS). Cognitive subgroups were subsequently related to clinical and brain volumetric measures (cortical, subcortical and cortical thickness) using ANCOVA.
Results: Three distinct cognitive clusters emerged: relative to controls we found one cluster of patients with preserved cognition (n = 25), one moderately impaired cluster (n = 38) and one severely impaired cluster (n = 23). Cognitive subgroups were characterized by differences in volume of the left postcentral gyrus, left middle caudal frontal gyrus and left insula, while differences in cortical thickness were predominantly found in fronto-parietal regions. No differences were demonstrated in subcortical brain volume.
Discussion: Current results replicate the existence of three distinct cognitive subgroups including one relatively large group with preserved cognitive function. Cognitive subgroups were characterized by differences in cortical regional brain volume and cortical thickness, suggesting associations with cortical, but not subcortical development and cognitive functioning such as attention, executive functions and speed of processing.