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Cognitive impairment among children at-risk for schizophrenia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-99
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of psychiatric research
Early online date18 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

King's Authors


Adults with schizophrenia present cognitive impairments, as do individuals at ultra-high risk for the disorder, youth with relatives with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and children with antecedents of schizophrenia. The present study aimed to determine if impairments in childhood differed depending on the definition of risk and/or on the degree of relatedness to an affected individual, and if impairments were explained by IQ. Four groups of children aged 9-12 years were studied: (1) 13 children with ≥1 first-degree or ≥2 second-degree affected relatives (high familial loading: FHx(H)); (2) 14 with ≥1 affected second-degree relative (lower familial loading: FHx(L)); (3) 32 with well-replicated antecedents of schizophrenia (ASz); and (4) 45 typically-developing (TD) children with neither a positive family history nor antecedents. Compared to TD children, both FHx(H) and ASz children exhibited significantly poorer verbal comprehension, scholastic achievement, and verbal working memory, while FHx(H) children additionally displayed significantly lower full-scale IQ, and verbal memory and executive function impairments. After adjusting statistical analyses for IQ, group differences were attenuated. Relative to TD children, FHx(L) children showed no significant differences in performance. The results imply that impairments in verbal comprehension, scholastic achievement, and verbal working memory may index vulnerability for schizophrenia among children with affected relatives with the disorder and among those with multiple antecedents of the disorder who have no affected relatives. More accurate identification of children at-risk for schizophrenia and the specific deficits that they present provides opportunities for interventions such as cognitive remediation that may impact the development of the illness.

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