Background: Childhood neuromotor dysfunction is a risk factor for schizophrenia, a disorder in which cognitive deficits are prominent. The relationship between early neurodevelopment and adult cognition in schizophrenia remains unclear.
Methods: We examined the associations between infant motor development and adult cognitive functions in schizophrenia (n = 61) and the general population (n = 104) in a sample drawn from the The Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort. Data on ages of learning to stand and walk with or without support were obtained at age 12 months by health visitor assessment. Neurocognitive measures at age 33-35 included executive function, verbal and visual episodic memory, and visuo-spatial working memory.
Results: The schizophrenia group achieved neuromotor milestones later and performed significantly worse than the control group on all measures of cognition. In pooled analyses there were associations between infant motor development and adult cognition in the domains of executive function, verbal learning and visuospatial working memory, but not in visual object learning. The pattern of associations between development and cognition was similar in schizophrenia and the general population.
Conclusions: These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that in schizophrenia mild infant motor developmental delay and adult cognitive deficits (at least in some domains) are age dependent manifestations of the same underlying neural process. Thus, they may be better considered as part of a single longitudinal syndrome.