Retinal function and preclinical risk traits in children and adolescents at genetic risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2022 Jan 10;112:110432. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2021.110432. Epub 2021 Aug 27.


Background: The millions of children having a parent affected by a major psychiatric disorder may carry, as vulnerability indicators, electroretinographic (ERG) anomalies resembling those seen in adult patients. Our goal was to determine whether ERG anomalies in high-risk youths are related to clinical precursors of a later transition to illness such as the presence of childhood DSM-IV diagnoses, bouts of psychotic like experiences, lower global IQ and social functioning deterioration.

Methods: The 99 youths (53% males) aged 5-27 years had one parent affected by schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder. They were assessed with a best-estimate DSM-IV diagnoses based on review of medical charts and a structured interview (K-SADS or SCID), global IQ (WISC-V and WAIS-IV), global functioning (GAF scale) and psychotic-like experiences using interviews and a review of medical records. The electroretinogram of rods and cones was recorded.

Results: Cone Vmax latency was longer in offspring having psychotic-like experiences, respective adjusted mean [SE] ms of 31.59 [0.27] and of 30.96 [0.14]; P = 0.018). The cone Vmax delayed latency was associated with a lower global IQ (R = -0.18; P = 0.045) and with deteriorated global functioning (GAF; R = -0.25; P = 0.008). In contrast, rods had decreased b-wave amplitude only in offspring with a non-psychotic non-affective DSM diagnoses, respective means [SE] μV of 170.18 [4.90] and of 184.01 [6.12]; P = 0.044).

Conclusions: ERG may mark neurodevelopmental pathways leading to adult illness and have an effect on early pre-clinical traits, giving clues to clinicians for the surveillance of sibling differences in high-risk families.

Keywords: Bipolar disorder; Children at risk of mentally ill parents; Major depressive disorder; Retina; Schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics*
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / genetics
  • Electroretinography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Prodromal Symptoms
  • Retina / physiopathology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / genetics*
  • Young Adult