Environmental noise may worsen cognitive impairment in schizophrenics: Study

Environmental noise may worsen cognitive impairment in schizophrenics: Study

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder which is believed to disrupt brain development in many ways, making it difficult for a person to differentiate between real and illusionary things. Those who suffer from this condition usually isolate themselves from family and friends and manifest symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, inability to concentrate, along with a surge in negative thoughts and suspicions.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an estimated 1.1 of Americans are afflicted with this disorder in a year. The disease is believed to be triggered by an interplay between biological and environmental factors. A recent study, published online in the journal Schizophrenia Research in March 2016, found that environmental noise can worsen cognitive impairment in schizophrenia patients.

Environmental noise may worsen pre-existing cognitive deficits of schizophrenics

In the study, titled “Effects of environmental noise on cognitive (dys)functions in schizophrenia: A pilot within-subjects experimental study,” the researchers examined 18 patients afflicted with the disorder and compared them with 18 healthy adults of matching age groups and genders. The participants faced no problems with vision and hearing abilities and revealed no history of brain or substance abuse disorder. The researchers also measured the intelligence quotient (IQ) of the patients which was found to be minimum 80.

The 36 study participants were made to undergo seven tests to evaluate their psychomotor speed, attention, executive functioning, working memory, and verbal learning and memory, in a gap of one to two weeks, under varied noise conditions.

The participants exposed to the noise conditions experienced sound not exceeding 30 A-weighted decibels (dB(A)) in a laboratory that was sound proof in nature. The social noise conditions included unintelligible babble and footsteps in a crowded hall of about 68 dB(A), plus occasional peaks of up to 78 dB(A) of mixed social sounds in the background. Participants experiencing urban noise witnessed not only the commotion characteristic of building sites without any social noise, but also the din that was similar to social sounds.

The scientists observed both healthy and schizophrenic patients to estimate the effect of all the noise conditions on their psychomotor speed, attention, executive function, working memory, and verbal recall and recognition. Both the groups exhibited alterations in working memory due to social noise and disruptions in verbal recall and recognition in case of urban and social noise, when contrasted with their memory levels during quiet conditions. However, no significant differences in achievement levels were observed both under social and urban noise conditions for either group.

The scientists observed that enormous levels of environmental noise may cause cognitive impairments in patients with schizophrenia. “Although there was little evidence that schizophrenia patients are more affected by noise than their healthy counterparts, environmental noise worsened their pre-existing cognitive deficits, particularly in the verbal memory domain,” said the researchers.

Noise conditions make it difficult for healthy people to concentrate, but when it comes to schizophrenics, their impact can be manifold. Stressing on the observations made during the study, the authors said, “Despite a lack of significant differential effects of urban or social noise in the patient and healthy participant groups, this pilot study demonstrates that noisy situations may further alter seemingly stable cognitive deficits in people with schizophrenia.”

Road to recovery

The discoveries and advances in the field of psychiatry have made it possible for schizophrenics to gain complete convalescence and live a normal life. Hence, it is important to be aware of the core symptoms of the disease so that effective remedial steps can be taken.

If you or your loved one is battling schizophrenia or any other mental illness, you must seek professional help. Take the first step towards a joyful life and call the California Mental Health Helpline to find one of the best mental health centers in California. To consult one of our mental health specialists, call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online. Our experts can scout for inpatient mental health facilities in California much easily.