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Genetic copy number variants, cognition and psychosis: a meta-analysis and a family study

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Johan H. Thygesen, Amelia Presman, Jasmine Harju-seppänen, Haritz Irizar, Rebecca Jones, Karoline Kuchenbaecker, Kuang Lin, Behrooz Z. Alizadeh, Isabelle Austin-zimmerman, Agna Bartels-velthuis, Anjali Bhat, Richard Bruggeman, Wiepke Cahn, Stella Calafato, Benedicto Crespo-facorro, Liewe De Haan, Sonja M. C. De Zwarte, Marta Di Forti, Álvaro Díez-revuelta, Jeremy Hall & 37 more Mei-hua Hall, Conrad Iyegbe, Assen Jablensky, Rene Kahn, Luba Kalaydjieva, Eugenia Kravariti, Stephen Lawrie, Jurjen J. Luykx, Igancio Mata, Colm Mcdonald, Andrew M. Mcintosh, Andrew Mcquillin, Rebecca Muir, Roel Ophoff, Marco Picchioni, Diana P. Prata, Siri Ranlund, Dan Rujescu, Bart P. F. Rutten, Katja Schulze, Madiha Shaikh, Frederike Schirmbeck, Claudia J. P. Simons, Timothea Toulopoulou, Therese Van Amelsvoort, Neeltje Van Haren, Jim Van Os, Ruud Van Winkel, Evangelos Vassos, Muriel Walshe, Matthias Weisbrod, Eirini Zartaloudi, Vaughan Bell, John Powell, Cathryn M. Lewis, Robin M. Murray, Elvira Bramon

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5307-5319
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number9
Accepted/In press1 Jan 2020
Published1 Sep 2021

King's Authors


The burden of large and rare copy number genetic variants (CNVs) as well as certain specific CNVs increase the risk of developing schizophrenia. Several cognitive measures are purported schizophrenia endophenotypes and may represent an intermediate point between genetics and the illness. This paper investigates the influence of CNVs on cognition. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature exploring the effect of CNV burden on general intelligence. We included ten primary studies with a total of 18,847 participants and found no evidence of association. In a new psychosis family study, we investigated the effects of CNVs on specific cognitive abilities. We examined the burden of large and rare CNVs (>200 kb, <1% MAF) as well as known schizophrenia-associated CNVs in patients with psychotic disorders, their unaffected relatives and controls (N = 3428) from the Psychosis Endophenotypes International Consortium (PEIC). The carriers of specific schizophrenia-associated CNVs showed poorer performance than non-carriers in immediate (P = 0.0036) and delayed (P = 0.0115) verbal recall. We found suggestive evidence that carriers of schizophrenia-associated CNVs had poorer block design performance (P = 0.0307). We do not find any association between CNV burden and cognition. Our findings show that the known high-risk CNVs are not only associated with schizophrenia and other neurodevelopmental disorders, but are also a contributing factor to impairment in cognitive domains such as memory and perceptual reasoning, and act as intermediate biomarkers of disease risk.

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