Schizophrenia's Cognitive Symptoms

Along with positive symptoms and negative symptoms, cognitive symptoms are one of three broad categories of schizophrenia's manifestation. While the first group deals with behaviors that appear or change with the onset of the disease, and the second with prior behaviors that diminish or vanish altogether, cognitive symptoms generally included those relating to memory, concentration, and higher-level brain function. Unlike the other categories, cognitive symptoms often only present themselves in response to specific neuropsychological testing.

Some of the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia include an inability to maintain attention on a task, diminished capacity to remember new knowledge and put it to work (working memory), and lack of an executive function (the ability to gather information and make decisions based off of it). Also, sufferers of schizophrenia may demonstrate disorganized thinking or difficulty expressing thoughts or integrating feelings and behavior.

One of the more promising treatments for schizophrenia, focusing on these cognitive symptoms, is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This relatively new process enables a patient to recognize the disordered thoughts as they are occurring and interrupt them before they can affect behavior. The mind can be retrained to be more vigilant and even to monitor itself for abnormal impulses.

Most of the work of cognitive-behavioral therapy lies in coming to realize and accept that these thoughts are occurring and then understanding why they are occurring. This is in contrast to traditional treatments which largely ignore underlying causes and emphasize the need to treat each symptom as it arises. In addition, the cognitive therapist is likely to view the brain, not as a single monolithic entity, but as a collection of interconnected pathways, any of which can be remapped or bypassed completely as the need arises.

New pharmaceutical treatments are becoming available for clinical use each week, and many of them are designed to address the cognitive needs of schizophrenics. Now that scientists appreciate the multifaceted nature of the disease, it might get easier for those who live it every day.

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