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Abstract

Background: Negative symptoms are frequent in patients with schizophrenia and are associated with marked impairments in social functioning. The efficacy of drug-based treatments and psychological interventions on primary negative symptoms remains limited. The Positive Emotions Programme for Schizophrenia (PEPS) is designed to improve pleasure and motivation in schizophrenia patients by target- ing emotion regulation and cognitive skills relevant to apathy and anhedonia. The main hypothesis of this study is that patients who attend 8 one-hour sessions of PEPS and treat- ment as usual (TAU) will have lower total apathy-avolition and anhedonia-asociality composite scores on the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS) than patients who attend only TAU. Methods: Eighty participants diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder were andomized to receive either TAU or PEPS + TAU. The participants were assessed by independent evaluators before randomization (T0), in a post-test after 8 weeks of treatment (T1) and at a 6-month follow-up (T2). Results: The post-test results and 6-month follow-up assessments according to an intention-to-treat analysis showed that the apathy and anhedonia composite scores on the SANS indicated statistically greater clinical improvements in PEPS participants than in non-PEPS participants. In the post-test, anhedonia but not apathy was significantly improved, thus favouring the PEPS condition. These results were sustained at the 6-month follow-up. Conclusions: PEPS is an effective intervention to reduce anhedonia in schizophrenia. PEPS is a short, easy-to-use, group-based, freely available intervention that is easy to implement in a variety of environments

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