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Title: Neuropsychological assessment in the Edinburgh High Risk for Schizophrenia Study
Author: Byrne, Majella M.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2000
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The causes of schizophrenia remain unknown; the only confirmed risk factor for the disorder is a genetic predisposition. Patients with schizophrenia may show cognitive impairments in childhood and the adult relatives of patients with schizophrenia may also show neuropsychological dysfunction. The extent, to which these variations indicate a vulnerability to schizophrenia or are precursors of the disorder, is unclear. The Edinburgh High Risk Study, where individuals at enhanced genetic risk for schizophrenia were recruited as young adults, provides an opportunity of clarifying these issues. A sample of 162 individuals between the ages of 16 and 25 at high genetic risk for schizophrenia, by virtue of having at least two affected relatives, were administered a detailed neuropsychological assessment battery, in addition to assessments in other domains. Subjects were followed up at intervals of 18 months until the end of the first five years or until the development of psychosis. The results were compared to a normal control group (n=34) and to a group of first episode patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia (n=37). Findings were compared between the three groups and related to indices of the degree of genetic risk, which were also related to the development of psychotic symptoms and handedness. Widespread significant differences in neuropsychological function between the groups were observed. When the differences in intellectual functioning between the groups were taken into account significant differences in executive function, learning and memory, and block design remained. Significant relationships were established between measures of genetic liability and neuropsychological findings, and shift from dextrality. No relationships between measures of genetic liability and development of psychosis were found. Individuals at enhanced risk for developing schizophrenia for genetic reason inherit not the disorder itself, but a state of vulnerability manifested by neuropsychological impairment occurring in many more individuals than are predicted to develop the disorder. The state of vulnerability is not sufficient for the development of schizophrenia.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available