The effects of cognitive remediation in patients with affective psychosis: A systematic review

Bruno Biagianti, Jaisal Merchant, Paolo Brambilla, Kathryn E. Lewandowski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and related illnesses are associated with significant impairment in cognitive functioning which is among the strongest predictors of disability and poor quality of life. Cognitive remediation (CR) was developed as a set of behavioral interventions directly targeting cognitive symptoms. Studies have shown that CR produces cognitive improvements in patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder that may be associated with improvements in functioning. However, the relative efficacy of CR across diagnoses has not been established. Indirect evidence suggests that CR is effective in patients with affective illness as well as patients with schizophrenia (SZ); however, the one study to evaluate the effects of diagnosis on outcomes directly in patients with SZ versus schizoaffective disorder (SZA) found no differences by diagnosis. Methods: In this systematic review, we evaluated cognitive and functional outcomes after CR in studies including patients with SZA, and examined specificity of training content to outcomes. Results: Sixteen studies met inclusion criteria: 10 studies that compared CR to a control condition (n = 779) and 6 comparative effectiveness studies. None of the studies explicitly compared patients by diagnosis. Studies included a mixture of patients with SZA or SZ. Of the CR versus control studies, effect sizes for cognitive outcomes were moderate-large (d = .36–.94). Studies comparing CR paradigms targeting different cognitive domains showed specificity of training focus to outcomes. Five of studies reported significant functional improvement after CR as secondary outcomes. Conclusions: In this review, we found support for the use of CR paradigms in patients with affective psychosis, with evidence that reported treatment effects in mixed affective and non-affective samples are at or above the levels previously reported in SZ. However, lack of availability of data directly comparing patients by diagnosis or examining moderator or mediator effects of diagnosis or diagnosis-related patient characteristics limits our understanding of the relative efficacy of CR across patient group.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberS0165-0327(18)32460-1
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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