Neurocognitive dysfunction is common in schizophrenia but its course and determinants remain uncertain. Our aim was to analyse if premorbid school performance and the severity of illness and functioning predict change in cognition in schizophrenia in a general population sample. The sample included cases with schizophrenia spectrum disorder from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966. Data on school marks at the age of 16 years, educational level at the age of 34 years, severity of symptoms and occupational functioning around first episode and after years of illness were gained from national registers, hospital notes and interviews. Change of verbal and visual learning and memory and executive functioning were examined between ages 34 and 43 years. The number of cases varied in analyses from 29 to 41, depending on missing data in particular cognitive tests. Lower school marks at age 16 years and lower education at age 34 years predicted more decline of cognition. Measures of severity of illness or functioning were not associated statistically significantly with change of cognition. Premorbid school performance, but not later course of schizophrenia, related to change of cognition in midlife. Poor premorbid scholastic performance and post-onset cognitive decline may represent related processes as part of an endophenotype of schizophrenia.
Keywords: AIM; CVLT; Follow-up; Occupational capacity; Outcome; VOLT.