Distinguishing schizophrenia spectrum from non-spectrum disorders among young patients with first episode psychosis and at high clinical risk: The role of basic self-disturbance and neurocognition

Jessica Spark, Łukasz Gawęda, Kelly Allott, Jessica A. Hartmann, Bradley N. Jack, Dan Koren, Suzie Lavoie, Emily Li, Patrick D. McGorry, Josef Parnas, Andrea Polari, Louis A. Sass, Thomas Whitford, Barnaby Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The distinction between the schizophrenia spectrum and other types of disorders may be clinically relevant in terms of its predictive validity as suggested by studies showing schizophrenia spectrum patients have more unfavourable outcomes compared to other psychotic disorders. The present study aimed to investigate whether basic self-disturbances and neurocognitive processes that have been linked to psychosis risk have discriminative power for schizophrenia spectrum disorders in patients presenting with first episode psychosis (FEP) and at ultra-high risk for psychosis (UHR). Methods: 38 FEP patients, 48 UHR patients, and 33 healthy controls were assessed for basic self-disturbances (using the Examination of Anomalous Self-Experience, EASE, interview), source monitoring and aberrant salience (behavioural tasks to measure neurocognitive constructs). Clinical groups were divided into patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and those with other non-spectrum disorders and were further compared on measures controlling for symptom severity and age. Results: Basic self-disturbances distinguished schizophrenia spectrum from non-spectrum disorders in the ‘FEP only’ sample, F = 19.76, p < 0.001, η2partial = 0.37, and also in the combined UHR/FEP sample, F = 23.56, p < 0.001, η2partial = 0.22. Additionally, some processes related to source monitoring deficits were elevated in schizophrenia spectrum disorders. In contrast, the two groups (schizophrenia spectrum vs other diagnoses) performed similarly in aberrant salience tasks. Comparable results were obtained for analyses performed with an FEP/UHR combined sample and the ‘FEP only’ sample. Discussion: Basic self-disturbances at the phenomenological level and source monitoring deficits on the neurocognitive level may be useful in identifying risk of schizophrenia spectrum disorders at the earliest clinical presentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded by a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (NARSAD) Independent Investigator Award (BN). LG was supported by the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (The Bekker Programme). BN was supported by an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship ( 1137687 ). KA was supported by an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship ( 1141207 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.


  • Aberrant salience
  • Clinical high risk
  • Schizophrenia spectrum
  • Self disturbance
  • Source monitoring
  • Schizophrenia/complications
  • Psychotic Disorders/complications
  • Humans
  • Schizophrenic Psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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