Researchers in Spain have developed a short test which can help evaluate schizophrenia patients’ short-term memory, mental agility, and organizational abilities in 20 minutes or less.
The research, which forms part of the doctoral thesis of Sílvia Zaragoza Domingo at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), is the result of a pioneering study in which 257 professionals worked with a sample of 700 schizophrenia patients representative of the Spanish population.
“In schizophrenia, it is desirable for the patient to be as independent and function as best [as] possible, although that does not always happen,” said Zaragoza Domingo.
She goes on to say that “this test allows each patient to better adapt to his life. For example, if a patient is slower mentally, but short-term memory is not affected, he or she will have more chances of leading an independent life than someone whose memory is also affected.”
For the study, UAB researchers, in collaboration with the University of Oviedo and the Biomedical Research Networking Centre in Mental Health (CIBERSAM), observed the efficacy of the test which consists of four separate assessments.
In addition to being short, the assessments are easy to administer and easily available to doctors, psychologists, and other clinicians in several languages, which makes it easier to use them with patients of different origins.
The test allows health professionals to assess, study, and comment on symptoms of the disorder which normally are not taken into account and which could serve to treat each case in the most effective way possible.
This battery of assessments represents a very important step towards offering patients specific examinations, which can be conducted through their regular mental health center or private doctor.
After the initial examination, health care workers can also conduct follow-up visits and determine whether changes in medications have worsened a patient’s attention span or memory, a common complaint among patients at their routine visits.
Schizophrenia is a chronic debilitating mental disorder characterized by psychotic “positive” symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, and disordered thinking, as well as “negative” symptoms, such as loss of motivation or judgment, memory problems, slowed movement, disinterest in hygiene, and social withdrawal.
People with schizophrenia often experience debilitating cognitive problems, including difficulties with episodic memory, a key factor in social functioning.
The findings were published in the journal Schizophrenia Research: Cognition, published by the Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS).