Differential relationships between positive and negative symptoms and neuropsychological deficits in schizophrenia

Ileana Berman, Barbara Viegner, Amalia Merson, Edward Allan, Demetra Pappas, Alan I. Green

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108 Scopus citations


This study assessed the relationships between positive and negative clinical symptoms and specific neuropsychological deficits in a group of stable schizophrenic patients. Method: Thirty patients were assessed using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) for schizophrenia and a battery of cognitive tests. The PANSS assessments were done by a group of raters blind to the results of cognitive tests, while the cognitive tests were conducted by a different group of raters who remained blind to the PANSS scores. Results: We found that, although positive and negative symptoms showed a trend toward direct correlation with each other, they correlated with distinct cognitive deficits. Patients with higher negative scores had more perseverative responses, perseverative errors, and completed fewer categories on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test; they also experienced more difficulties on trail making and verbal fluency tests. On the other hand, positive symptoms were associated with poor performance on the Digit Span, particularly the Digit Span Forward. Conclusions: Our findings are in agreement with previous reports that negative symptoms may be associated with poor performance on cognitive tests reflecting particularly frontal function. Positive symptoms, on the other hand, seem to be associated with poor attention, specifically of auditory type, and thus, possibly with dysfunction within the more widespread neural networks underlying attention. Our findings support the hypothesis that positive and negative symptoms may be associated with distinct neuropsychological deficits and thus with distinct neurological substrates and point to the need to address both positive and negative dimensions when studying schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 3 May 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Negative symptoms
  • Neuropsychological deficits
  • Positive symptoms
  • Schizophrenia


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