Drop In Verbal Performance In Teens Is A Strong Predictor Of Psychosis

It has already been shown many times that adults with mental illnesses often had poor cognitive skills in their youth. What hasn't been established is what this actually means: an impaired development or the roots of disease.

"If a disruption in neurodevelopment accounted for the association, one might hypothesize that its timing would be age-dependent, reflecting a falling off of abilities at particular stages in neurodevelopment. Conversely, a prodromal effect would be related to the timing of disease onset rather than age."

To try and determine this, James H. MacCabe, Ph.D., of King's College London in England, and his colleagues looked at changes in verbal, spatial, and inductive capabilities at ages 13 and 18 in a large cohort of almost 11,000 Swedish males who were born in 1953, 1967, 1972 and 1977.

Drop-in verbal performance predictor of psychosis

What they found was that a drop in verbal performance between ages 13 and 18 could be associated with subsequent admission for psychosis in adulthood, making that drop a strong predictor of psychosis.

Specifically, they found a correlation between verbal ability and risk of schizophrenia--notably, that for every increase of one standard deviation in verbal skill during adolescence, there was a decrease in the adjusted risk for schizophrenia. A similar correlation was found in bipolar disorder.

In addition to recommending more research into the correlation, the authors concluded:

"Relative verbal decline in adolescence and young adulthood reflects a neurodevelopmental process that occurs at a fixed age and puts the individual at an increased lifetime risk for psychosis, as opposed to a prodromal process that occurs shortly before the onset of symptoms."

Source: JAMA Psychiatry
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