The role of attention and immediate memory in vulnerability to interpersonal criticism during family transactions in schizophrenia

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Objective.Cognitive dysfunctions may represent vulnerability markers to psychosocial stress in schizophrenia. The purpose of this study was to investigate the possibility that cognitive deficits are associated with the emergence of unusual thoughts during a stressful family transaction.Methods.The cognitive performance of 80 patients with schizophrenia was characterized by the five index scores of the repeatable brief assessment of neuropsychological status (RBANS) test battery (immediate and delayed memory, visuospatial/constructional functions, language, and attention). The patients and one of their family members participated in a 20-minute interaction during which the number of relatives' harsh criticisms and the number of patients' unusual thoughts was measured.Results.Regression analyses revealed that criticism together with attention/immediate memory best predicted the number of unusual thoughts (>25% of variance). In patients with poor attention/immediate memory, there was a significant positive relationship between the number of criticisms and unusual thoughts.Conclusions.The results indicate that family criticism is related to thinking disturbances in patients with poor attention/immediate memory. The enhancement of these cognitive functions may increase resistance to psychosocial stress in schizophrenia.

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