Gastric dysmotility has been reported in patients suffering from major depression or schizophrenia. An increased sympathetic activity modulating the gastric pacemaker located in the antrum of the stomach has been suggested as the underlying pathology. Similar to patients suffering from schizophrenia, their first-degree relatives showed alterations in cardiac autonomic modulation. Here we aimed to investigate gastric myoelectrical activity in healthy relatives of patients suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Electrogastrography (EGG) was performed before and after test meal ingestion in 20 patients with paranoid schizophrenia, 20 of their first-degree relatives and 20 healthy matched controls. Autonomic and abdominal symptoms were assessed by the autonomic symptom score as previously reported. Autonomic parameters were correlated with the positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS). Only minimal differences were observed before test meal ingestion between relatives and controls. In contrast, after test meal ingestion we observed a significantly increased tachygastria within the signal of the gastric pacemaker in relatives compared to controls, whereas normogastria was reduced. Significant difference between relatives and controls were also found for postprandial ICDF (instability coefficient of dominant frequency) and slow wave, which represents the dominant frequency of gastric pacemaker activity, indicating gastric dysmotility in relatives. Between relatives and patients just a difference for ICDP (instability coefficient of dominant power) was observed. After stimulation of the enteric nervous system we have observed an increased sympathetic modulation in first-degree relatives of patients suffering from schizophrenia. This result adds evidence to an ongoing debate on the genetic influence of autonomic dysfunction in the disease.
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