Theory of Mind as a mediator variable between neurocognition and functioning in young individuals in treatment with secondary services for non-psychotic disorders.
Francesconi M., Minichino A., Carrión RE., Chiaie RD., Bevilacqua A., Parisi M., Rullo S., Bersani FS., Biondi M., Cadenhead K.
A large body of studies provides evidence for a link between neurocognition, theory of mind (ToM) and functioning in psychotic spectrum disorders (PSDs), with ToM mediating the effect that neurocognition has on functioning. These three constructs and the related mediation effect may characterize different psychiatric syndromes other than PSDs. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was applied to baseline data from a longitudinal study of 138 young individuals with a recent-onset psychiatric disorder. Using SEM, we tested the hypothesis that ToM mediates the effect of neurocognition on functioning independent of the level of psychosis risk and the diagnostic category. In the mediation model the bootstrapping estimate revealed a significant indirect effect that was the association of social cognition with neurocognition and with functional outcome. ToM was significantly associated with neurocognition and the path from neurocognition to functioning was no longer significant as soon as the mediator (ToM) was entered into the mediation model consistent with a complete mediation effect through ToM. This mediation was independent of the psychosis-risk status and the psychiatric diagnoses. Our results provide useful information on a young psychiatric sample, in which specific therapeutic interventions have the potential to significantly limit functional disability.