Working memory and attention deficits in adolescent offspring of schizophrenia or bipolar patients: Comparing vulnerability markers

Dept of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience, Wayne State University SOM, Detroit, MI 48301, USA.
Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 3.69). 07/2011; 35(5):1349-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2011.04.009
Source: PubMed


Working memory deficits abound in schizophrenia and attention deficits have been documented in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Adolescent offspring of patients may inherit vulnerabilities in brain circuits that subserve these cognitive domains. Here we assess impairments in offspring of schizophrenia (SCZ-Offspring) or bipolar (BP-Offspring) patients compared to controls (HC) with no family history of mood or psychotic disorders to the second degree.
Three groups (n=100 subjects; range: 10-20 yrs) of HC, SCZ-Offspring and BP-Offspring gave informed consent. Working memory was assessed using a delayed spatial memory paradigm with two levels of delay (2s & 12s); sustained attention processing was assessed using the Continuous Performance Task-Identical Pairs version.
SCZ-Offspring (but not BP-Offspring) showed impairments in working memory (relative to HC) at the longer memory delay indicating a unique deficit. Both groups showed reduced sensitivity during attention but only BP-Offspring significantly differed from controls.
These results suggest unique (working memory/dorsal frontal cortex) and potentially overlapping (attention/fronto-striatal cortex) vulnerability pathways in adolescent offspring of patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Working memory and attention assessments in these offspring may assist in the clinical characterization of the adolescents vulnerable to SCZ or BP.

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    • "Similar deficits are shown in first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients (MacDonald et al., 2003) and individuals with schizotypalUnlike some other cognitive processes, attention has been repeatedly linked to positive symptoms in schizophrenia (as discussed below). Attentional deficits have been also reported in the offspring of patients with schizophrenia (Diwadkar et al., 2011 ). Furthermore, attention training has been shown to improve treatment outcomes in schizophrenia patients (Silverstein et al., 2009 ), suggesting the close links between attention and schizophrenia symptoms. "
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