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Cogstate Testing Shows Effective Treatment For Schizophrenia Symptoms

September 22, 2013

Paul Maruff, Ph.D

Paul Maruff, Ph.D

For patients dealing with the everyday struggles of schizophrenia, any improvement in their cognitive functioning is welcome news.  Since there is no cure for the disorder, care providers have focused on relieving these symptoms with proven medications.  Now, a team of neuroscientists, including Dr. Paul Maruff, Chief Science Officer at Cogstate, have reported that Lurasidone, an atypical antipsychotic drug, was able to improve the cognitive functioning of schizophrenia patients significantly more than the control group.

As new drugs make their way through clinical trials, it is critical to design testing protocols that provide a high level of confidence in the results.  Factors such as an initial acute treatment period, use of a placebo control group and an extended, double-blind study spanning patients across the globe provide the best results.  This complete set of factors has been missing from previous studies.

“Cognitive impairment is a fundamental aspect of schizophrenia, and is often as devastating for the patient and family as are those symptoms referred to as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’,”  commented Dr. Judith Jaeger, vice president of clinical trials at Cogstate. “A drug that may be truly effective for both psychosis and cognitive symptoms suggests the possibility of more holistic treatments and better quality of life for millions of sufferers from this disabling condition.”

For the study, 486 test patients diagnosed with schizophrenia at 63 different clinics across the U.S., Russia, India, Ukraine, Romania and Colombia, received 6 weeks of double-blind treatment with once-daily evening doses of lurasidone (80 mg or 160 mg), quetiapine XR (600 mg), or placebo. At the end of the initial study, eligible patients continued with either flexible-dose lurasidone 40–160 mg/d or quetiapine XR200–600 mg/d.

The primary question from the researchers was whether any of the doses of Lurasidone helped the patients’ cognitive functioning including processing speed, attention, visual learning, working memory and social cognition at a statistically significant level.  To test this, the Cogstate computerized cognitive battery of tests were given to the patients before treatment to establish a baseline, then again at week 6, 19 and 32.

The results concluded that Lurasidone at 160 mg/d improved the cognitive functioning of the patients at the 6-week, 3-month and 6-month milestones.

The study has been published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.

Besides this breakthrough news of a possible treatment for patients, this study also validated that the right cognitive testing tool can detect subtle changes in patients during drug therapy.

“We have seen already that the Cogstate schizophrenia test battery is sensitive to cognitive improvement in chronic schizophrenia,” said Dr. Maruff.  “The really exciting thing about the results from this study are that they show now that the Cogstate battery is also sensitive to cognitive improvement in schizophrenia with acute exacerbation of psychosis.  This growing body of positive data suggest that cognitive impairment at all stages of the schizophrenia can be ameliorated and this amelioration can be detected using cognitive outcome measures with optimal sensitivity, like the Cogstate battery.”