The association between intelligence scores and family history of psychiatric disorder in schizophrenia patients, their siblings and healthy controls

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 9;8(10):e77215. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077215. eCollection 2013.


Background: The degree of intellectual impairment in schizophrenia patients and their relatives has been suggested to be associated with the degree of familial loading for schizophrenia. Since other psychiatric disorders are also more present in relatives of schizophrenia patients, the definition of family history should be broadened. The association between family history for psychiatric disorder and intelligence scores was investigated in patients with non-affective psychosis, their unaffected siblings and controls.

Methods: A sample of 712 schizophrenia proband families (696 patients and 766 siblings) and 427 healthy control families (517 subjects) participated in this study. Family history of psychiatric disorder was determined while excluding the data of the participating schizophrenia patient. A dichotomous division was made between families with no first- or second degree relative with psychiatric disorder and families with one or more affected relatives. Total intelligence scores were estimated by admission of the short form of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale III.

Results: A significant interaction was found between family history of psychiatric disorder and clinical status (F(2,1086.87)= 4.17; p=.016). Patients with a positive family history of psychiatric disorder obtained higher intelligence scores compared to patients with no family history (mean IQ scores are 95.52 and 92.72) with an opposite effect in controls (mean IQ scores are 108.71 and 111.19). No significant difference was found between siblings of schizophrenia patients with or without a positive family history (mean IQ scores are 102.98 and 103.24).

Conclusion: In patients with schizophrenia, a negative family history of psychiatric disorder was associated with relatively low IQ suggesting that the etiology in these patients may involve environmental or genetic factors which are unique to the patient and are not observed in other relatives. Possible factors include severe environmental stressors containing premature birth or brain injury and genetic factors (e.g de novo Copy Number Variants).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Intelligence*
  • Male
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology
  • Schizophrenia / etiology*
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Siblings / psychology*

Grant support

Dr. EMD is supported by NWO (project number 451-080-010). The infrastructure for the GROUP study is funded through the Geestkracht programme of the Dutch Health Research Council (ZON-MW, grant number 10-000-1001), and matching funds from participating pharmaceutical companies (Lundbeck, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Janssen Cilag) and universities and mental health care organizations (Amsterdam: Academic Psychiatric Centre of the Academic Medical Centre and the mental health institutions: GGZ Ingeest, Arkin, Dijk en Duin, GGZ Rivierduinen, Erasmus Medical Centre, GGZ Noord Holland Noord. Maastricht: Maastricht University Medical Centre and the mental health institutions: GGZ Eindhoven en de kempen, GGZ Breburg, GGZ Oost-Brabant, Vincent van Gogh voor Geestelijke Gezondheid, Mondriaan Zorggroep, Prins Clauscentrum Sittard, RIAGG Roermond, Universitair Centrum Sint-Jozef Kortenberg, CAPRI University of Antwerp, PC Ziekeren Sint-Truiden, PZ Sancta Maria Sint-Truiden, GGZ Overpelt, OPZ Rekem. Groningen: University Medical Center Groningen and the mental health institutions: Lentis, GGZ Friesland, GGZ Drenthe, Dimence, Mediant, GGNet Warnsveld, Yulius Dordrecht and Parnassia psycho-medical centre (The Hague). Utrecht: University Medical Centre Utrecht and the mental health institutions Altrecht, GGZ Centraal, Riagg Amersfoort and Delta.) The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.