Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Children at Risk for Schizophrenia Show Early Neurocognitive Deficits

Children with at least one biological parent with schizophrenia show deficits in intelligence, attention, verbal fluency, and other neurocognitive measures from age 7 to 11 years compared with children who do not have a parent with schizophrenia, according to a report in JAMA Psychiatry. These cognitive deficits were not seen in children who had a parent with bipolar disorder.

The findings suggest “that a substantial overlap between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in clinical characteristics and predisposing genes does not translate to overlapping neurocognitive impairments in their offspring during the ages of 7 and 11 years,” wrote Christina Bruun Knudsen, M.Sc., of the Psychosis Research Unit at Aarhus University in Denmark and colleagues. “These findings may have the potential to inform early intervention programs targeting cognitive impairments in children at [risk] of schizophrenia as these impairments may be susceptible to remediation.”

Knudsen and colleagues compared neurocognitive development in 451 children enrolled in the Danish High Risk and Resilience Study, including 170 children who had a parent with schizophrenia, 103 children who had a parent with bipolar disorder, and 178 children from the general population.

The children were assessed at age 7 and 11 using multiple neurocognitive measures including general intelligence, cognitive processing speed, sustained attention, verbal memory, visual-spatial memory, verbal fluency, and planning and working memory.

Compared with children from the general population, children at risk of developing schizophrenia showed significant neurocognitive impairment in 7 of 24 neurocognitive measures at age 11. Compared with children at risk of developing bipolar disorder, children at risk of schizophrenia had significant neurocognitive impairment in 5 of 24 measures compared with children at risk for bipolar disorder at age 11. Children at risk of bipolar disorder performed similarly on the neurocognitive tests as those from the general population.

“Our study aligns with several others reporting widespread neurocognitive impairments in children of individuals with schizophrenia during childhood and adolescence and in young adult first-degree relatives,” the authors wrote. “Assessments beyond age 11 years are warranted to uncover the expected emergence of neurocognitive impairments in children of parents with bipolar disorder and to identify potentially distinct neurocognitive trajectories in these high-risk groups that may be differentially related to the risk of developing schizophrenia or bipolar disorder later in life.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Study Sheds Light on Trajectory of Developing Bipolar Disorder.”

(Image: iStock/miljko)

Don't miss out! To learn about newly posted articles in Psychiatric News, please sign up here.


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.