Objective: Memory deficits have been shown in patients affected by schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar (BP)/mood disorder. We recently reported that young high-risk offspring of an affected parent were impaired in both verbal episodic memory (VEM) and visual episodic memory (VisEM). Understanding better the trajectory of memory impairments from childhood to adult clinical status in risk populations is crucial for early detection and prevention. In multigenerational families densely affected by SZ or BP, our aim was to compare the memory impairments observed in young nonaffected offspring with memory functioning in nonaffected adult relatives and patients.
Methods: For 20 years, we followed up numerous kindreds in the Eastern Québec population. After having characterized the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders phenotypes, we assessed cognition (N = 381) in 3 subsamples in these kindreds and in controls: 60 young offspring of a parent affected by SZ or BP, and in the adult generations, 92 nonaffected adult relatives and 40 patients affected by SZ or BP. VEM was assessed with the California Verbal Learning Test and VisEM with the Rey figures.
Results: The VEM deficits observed in the offspring were also found in adult relatives and patients. In contrast, the VisEM impairments observed in the young offspring were present only in patients, not in the adult relatives.
Conclusion: Implications for prevention and genetic mechanisms can be drawn from the observation that VEM and VisEM would show distinct generational trajectories and that the trajectory associated with VisEM may offer a better potential than VEM to predict future risk of developing the disease.