Retinal function anomalies in young offspring at genetic risk of schizophrenia and mood disorder: The meaning for the illness pathophysiology

Schizophr Res. 2020 May;219:19-24. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2019.06.021. Epub 2019 Jul 15.


Background: Visual defects are documented in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. One of the most consistent alterations in patients is a change in cone and rod electroretinographic (ERG) responses. We previously showed a reduced rod b-wave amplitude in a small sample of young offspring born to an affected parent. A confirmation of the patients ERG anomalies in young offspring at high genetic risk would offer a new approach to the neurodevelopmental investigation of the illness. We thus investigated cone and rod responses in a larger sample of young healthy high-risk offspring.

Methods: The ERG was recorded in 99 offspring of patients having DMS-IV schizophrenia, bipolar or major depressive disorder (mean age 16.03; SD 6.14) and in 223 healthy controls balanced for sex and age. The a- and b-wave latency and amplitude of cones and rods were recorded.

Results: Cone b-wave latency was increased in offspring (ES = 0.31; P = 0.006) whereas rod b-wave amplitude was decreased (ES = -0.37; P = 0.001) and rod latency was increased (ES = 0.35; P = 0.002).

Conclusions: The ERG rod and cone abnormal response previously reported in adult patients having schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder are detectable in genetically high-risk offspring as early as in childhood and adolescence. Moreover, a gradient of effect sizes among offspring and the three adult diagnoses was found in the cone response. This suggests that ERG waveform as a risk endophenotype might become part of the definition of a "childhood risk syndrome".

Keywords: Affective disorder; Bipolar disorder; Children of mentally ill parents; Electroretinography; Neurodevelopment; Schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder* / genetics
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / genetics
  • Electroretinography
  • Humans
  • Retina
  • Schizophrenia* / genetics