Cognitive effects of olanzapine treatment in schizophrenia

Susan R. McGurk*, M. A. Lee, K. Jayathilake, Herbert Y. Meltzer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Improvement in some but not all domains of cognition during treatment with the atypical antipsychotic drugs clozapine, quetiapine, olanzapine, and risperidone has been reported in some but not all studies. It has been recently suggested that these reports are an artifact, related to lessening of the impairment due to typical neuroleptic drugs and anticholinergic agents. The purpose of this study was to further test the hypothesis that olanzapine, an atypical antipsychotic drug reported to have anticholinergic properties, improves cognition in patients with schizophrenia, including domains of cognition related closely to work and social function (ie, verbal learning and memory) and that this improvement is independent of improvement in psychopathology. Thirty-four patients with schizophrenia who were partial responders to typical antipsychotic drug treatment were evaluated with a comprehensive neurocognitive battery, including measures of executive functioning; verbal and visual learning and memory; working memory; immediate, selective, and sustained attention; perceptual/motor processing; and motor skills prior to and following treatment with olanzapine for 6 weeks. The Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) was used to assess psychopathology in patients treated with typical antipsychotic drugs. Subjects were switched to olanzapine (average dose 13.4 mg, range 5-20 mg) and reassessed following 6 weeks and 6 months of treatment. Significant improvement was noted in 9 of 19 cognitive tests, including measures of selective attention, verbal learning and memory, and verbal fluency. No cognitive test was worsened by olanzapine treatment. Improvements in the BPRS Total and Positive Symptom Subscale scores were noted. Improvements in verbal learning and memory, sustained attention, and psychomotor tracking were independent of improvement in psychopathology. These data suggest that olanzapine improved some but not all cognitive deficits in schizophrenia, including verbal memory, a cognitive domain impaired by anticholinergic drugs. The basis for the improvement in cognitive scores, which should lead to improvement in role functioning if real, is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMedGenMed Medscape General Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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