Relational memory is impaired in chronic schizophrenia. It is unclear if similar deficits are already present in the early stage of psychosis. We used the Associative Inference Paradigm to test relational memory ability in the early stage of a non-affective psychotic disorder. Eighty-two early stage psychosis patients and 67 healthy control subjects were trained on 3 sets of 30 paired associates: H-F1 (house paired with face), H-F2 (same house paired with new face), F3-F4 (two new faces). Subjects who reached 80% recall accuracy of the paired associates during training were then tested for their ability to recall the previously seen pairs and solve a novel, inferential pairing F1-F2 (faces linked through association to same house). Sixty early psychosis patients (73%) and 67 healthy control subjects (100%) successfully reached the accuracy threshold (80%) during training and were included in the analysis of relational memory. The early stage psychosis patients showed less of an associative inference effect than the healthy controls (pair type by group interaction: F (1,125) = 5.04, p < 0.05). However, the majority of early psychosis patients (52%) displayed intact inferential memory, compared to our prior study which revealed just 16% of chronic schizophrenia patients had intact inferential memory. Patients in the early stage of psychosis show a relational memory deficit, although less pronounced than in chronic schizophrenia. Longitudinal studies are needed to examine the progression of relational memory deficits in schizophrenia and its associations with clinical, functional, and biological measures.
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