Verbal learning deficits associated with increased anticholinergic burden are attenuated with targeted cognitive training in treatment refractory schizophrenia patients.


Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States; VISN-22 Mental Illness, Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC), La Jolla, CA, United States. Electronic address: [Email]


Targeted cognitive training (TCT) has been reported to improve verbal learning deficits in patients with schizophrenia (SZ). Despite positive findings, it is not clear whether demographic factors and clinical characteristics contribute to the success of TCT on an individual basis. Medication-associated anticholinergic burden has been shown to impact TCT-associated verbal learning gains in SZ outpatients, but the role of anticholinergic medication burden on TCT gains in treatment refractory SZ patients has not been described. In this study, SZ patients mandated to a locked residential rehabilitation center were randomized to treatment as usual (TAU; n=22) or a course of TAU augmented with TCT (n=24). Anticholinergic medication burden was calculated from medication data at baseline and follow-up using the Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden (ACB) Scale. MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery Verbal Learning domain scores were used as the primary outcome variable. The TAU and TCT groups were matched in ACB at baseline and follow-up. While baseline ACB was not associated with verbal learning in either group, increases in ACB over the course of the study were significantly associated with deterioration of verbal learning in the TAU group (r=-0.51, p=0.02). This was not seen in subjects randomized to TCT (r=-0.13, p=0.62). Our results suggest that TCT may blunt anticholinergic medication burden associated reduction in verbal learning in severely disabled SZ inpatients.


Anticholinergic medication,Cognitive impairment,Schizophrenia,Targeted cognitive training,Verbal learning,

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