Executive functions in schizophrenia aging: differential effects of age within specific executive functions


There are common cognitive and brain abnormalities in schizophrenia and healthy aging which may cumulate in schizophrenia aging. However, the course of executive deficits in late-life schizophrenia is still controversial as it remains unclear whether schizophrenia patients show accelerated aging. The use of specific models of executive functions might help to shed new lights on this issue. The aim of this study was then to determine how each of the four specific executive functions (shifting, updating, inhibition and access to long-term memory) is affected by aging in schizophrenia compared to healthy aging. 20 younger (age 18-34), 17 middle-aged (age 35-49) and 25 older (age 59-76) schizophrenia patients and 62 healthy comparison participants matched for gender, age and education performed a neurocognitive battery evaluating the four specific executive functions. Schizophrenia patients performed worse than comparison participants on shifting, updating and access, whereas inhibition appeared preserved. Age affected the four functions with increased degradation of shifting and access in schizophrenia patients, whereas updating and inhibition showed a normal decline with age. These results suggest a vulnerability of prefrontal and cingulate cortexes in schizophrenia aging. Moreover, as age affected the specific executive functions differently, remediation programs should be adapted to older patients. Models of specific executive functions are useful for understanding the complexity of cognition in schizophrenia and its course during later life so that healthcare can be adapted accordingly.