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Neuropsychological Clustering Highlights Cognitive Differences In Young People Presenting With Depressive Symptoms

  • Daniel F. Hermens (a1), M. Antoinette Redoblado Hodge (a1), Sharon L. Naismith (a1), Manreena Kaur (a1), Elizabeth Scott (a1) and Ian B. Hickie (a1)...


Early stages of affective or psychotic disorders may be accompanied by neuropsychological changes that help to predict risk of developing more severe disorders. A comprehensive set of neuropsychological measures was collected in 109 help-seeking young people (16 to 30 years; 54 females), recently diagnosed with an affective or psychotic disorder and presenting with current depression. Hierarchical cluster analysis determined three clusters: one deemed to have a “poor memory” profile (n = 40); another with a “poor mental flexibility” profile (n = 38) and a third with widespread difficulties plus “impaired attention and memory” (n = 31). In general, the three clusters were comparable in demographic, functional and clinical factors suggesting some unique role for neurocognitive impairments. A discriminant function analysis confirmed that the clusters were best characterized by performance in “attentional” versus “learning/memory” measures. Furthermore, profiles of independent neuropsychological variables validated the original solution for two of the clusters, distinguishing all cluster-groups on an attentional measure. The findings of this study suggest that despite presenting with very similar levels of current depressive symptomatology, young help-seeking individuals in the early stages of illness have underlying neuropsychological heterogeneity. Distinct neuropsychological profiling may help to predict later psychiatric outcomes and enhance individually-tailored early intervention strategies. (JINS, 2011, 17, 267–276)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Daniel F. Hermens, Clinical Research Unit, Brain & Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, 100 Mallet Street, Camperdown, NSW 2050, Australia. E-mail:


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