Volume 44 Number 6, 2007
Pages 827 — 836

Abstract - Is learning potential associated with social skills in schizophrenia?

Wendy N. Tenhula, PhD;1-2* Joanna E. Strong Kinnaman, PhD;1 Alan S. Bellack, PhD1-2

1Department of Veterans Affairs Capitol Health Care Network (Veterans Integrated Service Network 5), Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center, Baltimore, MD; 2Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

Abstract — Cognitive deficits are a primary factor in the social and functional impairments characteristic of schizophrenia and an important predictor of treatment success in psychosocial rehabilitation. This study examined the association between abstract reasoning and social functioning by assessing whether learning potential on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) relates to changes in social competence following social skills training (SST). Fifty-six veterans with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder completed a series of assessments followed by eight SST sessions. To evaluate learning potential, we assessed participants with the WCST and Category Test (CT), taught them a training protocol for the WCST, and retested on both measures. Participants learned the WCST, generalized this learning to improve their performance on the CT, and retained these gains for several weeks. Participants showed small improvements on the Maryland Assessment of Social Competence (MASC), but WCST learning potential and CT generalization were unrelated to improvement on the MASC.

Key words: executive function, functional outcome, learning, learning potential, neurocognition, neuropsychology, problem solving, rehabilitation, schizophrenia, social functioning, social skills training.

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