Background: Neurocognitive dysfunction, a core feature of schizophrenia, is thought to contribute to the impulsive violent aggression manifested by some individuals with schizophrenia, but not enough is known about how homicidal individuals with schizophrenia perform on neuropsychological measures. Aims: The primary aim of our study was to describe the neuropsychological profiles of homicide offenders with schizophrenia. Supplementary analyses compared the criminal, psychiatric and neuropsychological features of schizophrenic homicide offenders with and without God/Satan/demon-themed psychotic symptoms. Methods: Twenty-five men and women diagnosed with schizophrenia who had killed another person – 21 convicted of first-degree murder and 4 found not guilty by reason of insanity – completed neuropsychological testing during forensic evaluations. Results: The sample was characterised by extensive neurocognitive impairments, involving executive dysfunction (60%), memory dysfunction (68%) and attentional dysfunction (50%), although those with God/Satan/demon-themed psychotic symptoms performed better than those with nonreligious psychotic content. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that impaired cognition may play an important role in the commission of homicide by individuals with schizophrenia. A subgroup with God/Satan/demon delusions seem sufficiently less impaired that they might be able to engage in metacognitive treatment approaches, aimed at changing their relationship to their psychotic symptoms, thus reducing the perception of power and omnipotence of hallucinated voices and increasing their safety.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Psychology (miscellaneous)
- Psychiatry and Mental health