Background: Studies of groups of individuals who have a genetically high risk of developing schizophrenia, have found neuropsychological impairments that highlight likely trait markers of the schizophrenic genotype. This paper describes the change in neuropsychological function and associations with psychiatric state of high risk participants during the first two assessments of the Edinburgh High Risk Study.
Methods: Seventy-eight high risk participants and 22 normal controls, age and sex matched completed two neuropsychological assessments 18 months to 2 years apart. The areas of function assessed include intellectual function, executive function, learning and memory, and verbal ability and language.
Results: The high risk participants performed significantly worse on particular tests of verbal memory and executive function over the two assessments than matched controls. Those high risk participants who experienced psychotic symptoms were found to exhibit a decline in IQ and perform worse on tests of verbal memory and executive function than those without symptoms. An increase in psychotic symptoms between the two assessments in the high risk group was found to be associated with an apparent decline in IQ and memory.
Conclusions: The results suggest that the development of psychotic symptoms is preceded by a decline in IQ and memory. This may reflect a general and a more specific disease process respectively.