Cognition, psychosis risk and metabolic measures in two adolescent birth cohorts

Psychol Med. 2018 Nov;48(15):2609-2623. doi: 10.1017/S0033291718001794. Epub 2018 Jul 24.


Background: Psychoses, especially schizophrenia, are often preceded by cognitive deficits and psychosis risk states. Altered metabolic profiles have been found in schizophrenia. However, the associations between metabolic profiles and poorer cognitive performance and psychosis risk in the population remain to be determined.

Methods: Detailed molecular profiles were measured for up to 8976 individuals from two general population-based prospective birth cohorts: the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986 (NFBC 1986) and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). A high-throughput nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy platform was used to quantify 70 metabolic measures at age 15-16 years in the NFBC 1986 and at ages 15 and 17 years in ALSPAC. Psychosis risk was assessed using the PROD-screen questionnaire at age 15-16 years in the NFBC 1986 or the psychotic-like symptoms assessment at age 17 years in ALSPAC. Cognitive measures included academic performance at age 16 years in both cohorts and general intelligence and executive function in ALSPAC. Logistic regression measured cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between metabolic measures and psychosis risk and cognitive performance, controlling for important covariates.

Results: Seven metabolic measures, primarily fatty acid (FA) measures, showed cross-sectional associations with general cognitive performance, four across both cohorts (low density lipoprotein diameter, monounsaturated FA ratio, omega-3 ratio and docosahexaenoic acid ratio), even after controlling for important mental and physical health covariates. Psychosis risk showed minimal metabolic associations.

Conclusions: FA ratios may be important in marking risk for cognitive deficits in adolescence. Further research is needed to clarify whether these biomarkers could be causal and thereby possible targets for intervention.

Keywords: ALSPAC; NFBC 1986; cognition; fatty acids; lipoprotein lipids; metabolomics; psychosis risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Performance
  • Adolescent
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Metabolomics*
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / metabolism*
  • Risk
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology*
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology