Aim: On 6 April 2009, at 3:32 GMT, central Italy was struck by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake with its epicentre near L'Aquila, the capital city of the Abruzzo region. Earthquakes may precipitate psychiatric symptoms. The aim of this study was to investigate cognitive functioning and positive and negative symptoms before and after the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake in patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP) and chronic schizophrenia (CS).
Methods: A total of 54 FEP patients (34 males and 20 females) and 63 CS patients (39 males and 24 females) were investigated. Psychometric scores were submitted to a 2 × 2 mixed analysis of variance, with group (FEP and CS) as the between-subjects variable and time (pre- and post-earthquake) as the within-subjects variable.
Results: Positive symptoms increased significantly from the pre- to the post-earthquake assessment in FEP patients but not in those with CS. There were no significant differences between the pre- and post-earthquake period in terms of negative symptoms in both groups. Compared with the pre-earthquake assessment, FEP patients scored significantly worse at the post-earthquake evaluation in terms of Wisconsin Card Sorting Test categories achieved, immediate verbal memory and delayed verbal memory. However, there were no significant differences in cognitive scores between the pre- and post-earthquake periods in patients with CS.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that a disastrous earthquake has a negative impact on cognitive functioning and positive symptoms in FEP patients, but not in those with CS.