Exposure to prenatal infections, genetics and the risk of systematic and periodic catatonia

J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2002 May;109(5-6):921-9. doi: 10.1007/s007020200075.


The meaning of heterogeneity in schizophrenia and the impact of genetic and environmental factors on etiology are a matter of continuous debate in psychiatric research. Different clinical and birth history variables were investigated in a sample of 68 patients with chronic catatonic schizophrenia according to DSM III-R, classified into Leonhard's systematic schizophrenia (n = 32) and periodic catatonia (n = 36). Parental transmission of the disease was evident in 44% of the periodic catatonia cases compared to one case in systematic catatonia (3%; p = 0.0003). In systematic catatonia, 34% of the index cases were exposed to prenatal infections compared to 8% in periodic catatonia (p = 0.008). Using logistic regression analysis exposure to gestational maternal infections predicted diagnosis of systematic catatonia at p = 0.008, and parental psychosis predicted diagnosis of periodic catatonia in the index cases at p = 0.0001. The latter finding is substantiated by the recent mapping of a periodic catatonia-susceptibility locus on chromosome 15q15 with evidence for autosomal dominant transmission. These findings support the hypothesis that distinct schizophrenia phenotypes are based on different etiological mechanisms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Catatonia / etiology*
  • Catatonia / genetics
  • Catatonia / physiopathology*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 15 / genetics
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Periodicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / complications
  • Schizophrenia / genetics