Researchers have examined how schizophrenia patients remember social information in everyday life, and whether their social episodic memory changes over the course of their illness. The findings are published in Schizophrenia Bulletin.

“Although a number of studies examined recollection and familiarity memory in schizophrenia, most of studies have focused on nonsocial episodic memory. Little is known about how schizophrenia patients remember social information in everyday life and whether social episodic memory changes over the course of illness,” wrote Michael F. Green, PhD, from the University of California Los Angeles, California and the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, and colleagues.

The researchers studied probands and demographically matched controls at each phase of illness: 51 at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis and 36 controls, 80 patients with first-episode schizophrenia and 49 controls, and 50 patients with chronic schizophrenia and 39 controls.

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In addition to social cognitive measures and measures on community functioning, the participants completed the Social Remember-Know Paradigm to assess overall social episodic memory, social recollection and familiarity memory, and social context memory.

Dr Green and colleagues found that probands at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis showed impairment in recollection but not in familiarity memory, while patients with first-episode and chronic schizophrenia showed impairment in social context memory. Social context memory was associated with community functioning only in the participants with chronic schizophrenia.

“These findings suggest that an impaired recollection could be a vulnerability marker for schizophrenia, whereas impaired social context memory could be a disease-related marker,” the researchers wrote.

“Further, a pattern of impaired recollection with intact familiarity memory for social stimuli suggests that schizophrenia patients may have a different pattern of impaired episodic memory for social vs nonsocial stimuli,” they concluded.

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Lee J, Nuechterlein KH, Knowlton BJ, et al. Episodic memory for dynamic social interaction across phase of illness in schizophrenia [published online July 6, 2017]. Schizophr Bull. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbx081