Neuropsychological and neuroimaging underpinnings of schizoaffective disorder: a systematic review

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The neurobiological basis and nosological status of schizoaffective disorder remains elusive and controversial. This study provides a systematic review of neurocognitive and neuroimaging findings in the disorder.


A comprehensive literature search was conducted via PubMed, ScienceDirect, Scopus and Web of Knowledge (from 1949 to 31st March 2015) using the keyword ‘schizoaffective disorder’ and any of the following terms: ‘neuropsychology’, ‘cognition’, ‘structural neuroimaging’, ‘functional neuroimaging’, ‘multimodal’, ‘DTI’ and ‘VBM’. Only studies that explicitly examined a well defined sample, or subsample, of patients with schizoaffective disorder were included.


Twenty-two of 43 neuropsychological and 19 of 51 neuroimaging articles fulfilled inclusion criteria. We found a general trend towards schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder being related to worse cognitive performance than bipolar disorder. Grey matter volume loss in schizoaffective disorder is also more comparable to schizophrenia than to bipolar disorder which seems consistent across further neuroimaging techniques.


Neurocognitive and neuroimaging abnormalities in schizoaffective disorder resemble more schizophrenia than bipolar disorder. This is suggestive for schizoaffective disorder being a subtype of schizophrenia or being part of the continuum spectrum model of psychosis, with schizoaffective disorder being more skewed towards schizophrenia than bipolar disorder.

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