Background

Studies in child and adolescent offspring of patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorders may help understand the influence of neurodevelopmental factors on the premorbid phenotype of these disorders.

Aims

To assess whether a combination of neurodevelopmental factors discriminates between young offspring of patients with schizophrenia (SzO) or bipolar disorder (BpO) and community controls (CcO). To assess the association between these factors and rates of psychiatric diagnoses in high risk (HR) youth.

Methods

One hundred thirty-three HR offspring (47 SzO and 86 BpO) and 84 CcO, aged 6–17, underwent cross-sectional clinical, neurocognitive, and structural neuroimaging assessment. Information on perinatal events and early childhood development was also obtained. General linear mixed models were performed to assess group discrimination and association with lifetime axis I psychiatric disorders.

Results

Multivariate analyses revealed that greater neurological soft signs (NSS), less total grey matter volume (GMV) and a higher frequency of obstetric complications discriminated HR offspring from CcO. When comparing each group individually, greater NSS and a higher frequency of obstetric complications discriminated SzO from CcO, and BpO from CcO, while lower intelligence also discriminated SzO from CcO and from BpO. Within HR offspring, lower intelligence and less total GMV were associated with lifetime incidence of psychiatric disorders.

Conclusions

Both SzO and BpO showed evidence of neurodevelopmental insult, although this may have a greater impact in SzO. Lower intelligence and less total GMV hold potential as biomarkers of risk for psychiatric disorders in HR youth.