BACKGROUND: In most domains of cognition, individuals with schizophrenia are generally found to be one standard deviation below the mean of the controls. As a result, examining the impact of cognitive remediation in individuals with schizophrenia has been a burgeoning area of research. However, the state of the literature remains unclear as to which domains of cognition should be targeted to produce the most widespread and durable benefits for individuals with schizophrenia. One suggestion is that targeting lower-level cognitive processes that are important for higher-level and more complex aspects of cognition may produce the most widespread benefits in cognition and everyday functioning. Relatively few studies have examined the effects of working memory or processing speed training in schizophrenia, as most studies examine broad-based remediation programs. Thus, a need exists for targeted working memory and processing speed training studies to better understand the mechanisms of cognitive enhancement in patients. This study aims to 1) investigate near-transfer gains (that is, the transfer of learning to related contexts) associated with working memory and processing speed training in schizophrenia patients; 2) investigate far-transfer gains (that is, the transfer of learning to new contexts) associated with working memory and processing speed training (that is, gains in other neurocognitive domains and social cognition); and 3) investigate real-world gains associated with training (that is, gains in daily functioning).
A double-blind randomized controlled trial with a three parallel group design will be conducted. A random sample of 81 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder will be recruited through outpatient clinics at Foothills Hospital and community support programs in Calgary, Alberta. Participants will be randomly assigned using a computer-generated program in a 1:1:1 ratio to a working memory-training group, a processing speed-training group, or a no-training control group. Training will be completed at home for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week, for a total of 10 weeks. Neurocognitive, social cognitive, and daily functioning measures will be administered both pre- and post-training to detect training-related gains. The primary outcome measures will include working memory and processing speed (near-transfer measures), as well as fluid intelligence (far-transfer measure).
Current controlled trials NCT02478827 (ClinicalTrials.gov, registered on 15 June 2015).