A quasi-randomized feasibility pilot study of specific treatments to improve emotion recognition and mental-state reasoning impairments in schizophrenia


BackgroundImpaired ability to make inferences about what another person might think or feel (i.e., social cognition impairment) is recognised as a core feature of schizophrenia and a key determinant of the poor social functioning that characterizes this illness. The development of treatments to target social cognitive impairments as a causal factor of impaired functioning in schizophrenia is of high priority. In this study, we investigated the acceptability, feasibility, and limited efficacy of 2 programs targeted at specific domains of social cognition in schizophrenia: SoCog'' Mental-State Reasoning Training (SoCog-MSRT) and SoCog’’ Emotion Recognition Training (SoCog-ERT).MethodThirty-one participants with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder were allocated to either SoCog-MSRT (n = 19) or SoCog-ERT (n = 12). Treatment comprised 12 twice-weekly sessions for 6 weeks. Participants underwent assessments of social cognition, neurocognition and symptoms at baseline, post-training and 3-months after completing training.ResultsAttendance at training sessions was high with an average of 89.29 % attendance in the SoCog-MSRT groups and 85.42 % in the SoCog-ERT groups. Participants also reported the 2 programs as enjoyable and beneficial. Both SoCog-MSRT and SoCog-ERT groups showed increased scores on a false belief reasoning task and the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. The SoCog-MSRT group also showed reduced personalising attributional biases in a small number of participants, while the SoCog-ERT group showed improved emotion recognition.ConclusionsThe results are promising and support the feasibility and acceptability of the 2 SoCog programs as well as limited efficacy to improve social cognitive abilities in schizophrenia. There is also some evidence that skills for the recognition of basic facial expressions need specific training.Trial registrationAustralian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12613000978763. Retrospectively registered 3/09/2013.

BMC Psychiatry, (16), 1, pp. 360, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-016-1064-6