Neuropsychological clustering highlights cognitive differences in young people presenting with depressive symptoms

Daniel F. Hermens*, M. Antoinette Redoblado Hodge, Sharon L. Naismith, Manreena Kaur, Elizabeth Scott, Ian B. Hickie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-276
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Affective disorder
  • Attention
  • Executive function
  • Memory
  • Psychotic disorder
  • Young adult


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