May 11, 2007

Progress Towards Identifing Schizophrenia Risk in Children

New research conducted by a schizophrenia research team from Quebec, Canada suggests that significant progress toward finding a way to determine whether a child is likely to one day suffer from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

The findings where presented at the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research in Colorado Springs about a month ago.

The participants in Dr. Maziade's study — a group of 45 children from families densely affected by schizophrenia or bipolar disorder — had not yet been diagnosed for the diseases. However, they came from families where the prevalence of these illnesses was 15 to 20 times higher than in the general population and, in each case, one of the parents suffered from either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

A battery of neurological tests revealed that these high-risk children performed much more poorly than a control group in memory tasks and executive functioning (planning, classifying, and interpreting information). "These tests show quantifiable dysfunctions in the brain of children or teenagers that could be used as early warning signs for the disease," explains Dr. Maziade. "The ultimate goal is to use them to estimate the risk for a child as young as three or four years old and start preventative treatments."

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder take on many different forms and, as of yet, there are no biological tests to rapidly confirm diagnosis with certainty. About 1% of the population suffers from schizophrenia. As for bipolar disorder, it is estimated that 2.6% of people between 25 and 64 are affected by it at least once in their lifetimes.

The genetic study of 2,000 people from 46 Eastern Quebec multigenerational families severely affected by these diseases has been conducted by CRULRG since 1989. It has allowed the discovery of ten genomic susceptibility sites shared by the two diseases in the genetic make-up of the participating families. The dysfunctions revealed through neuropsychological testing also proved to be very similar whether the children were from families at risk for schizophrenia or for bipolar disorder. "The two diseases have a lot in common. One can assume they have a common origin and that something eventually happens to trigger the onset of a specific illness," suggests Maziade.

Dr. Maziade is confident the results of this study will bring hope to those afflicted by the diseases. "Medication currently available can treat symptoms, but not the disease itself. Our results are encouraging because they give us a glimpse of the causal mechanisms and thus bring us closer to a more effective treatment. They also pave the way to better prevention because early identification of at-risk children will make it possible to help them more effectively, especially in school, where they often exhibit learning problems."

In addition to Dr. Maziade, the members of the research team were Nancie Rouleau, Chantal M érette, Marc-Andr é Roy, Nathalie Gingras, Marie-Eve Paradis, and Val érie Jomphe.

Source/More Information: Centre de recherche Université Laval Robert-Giffard


My son's father is schizophrenic and bipolar, and his grandmother is bipolar. His grandmothers side of the family every male on her side has suffered from schizophrenia, and every female has bipolar. My son is only 2 1/2yrs old but knowing this bothers me. How much of a chance does my son have of getting these disorders? And what signs should I be looking for to begin medical treatment?

Posted by: Mellisa at May 17, 2007 07:33 PM

Mellisa don't be hasty in trying to treat your child. First you should read about what is considered normal for a child of the age of 2 1/2. Which tends to be something like this. Running around naked, stripping off his/her own clothes after he or she has been dressed, throwing food at the table. Hyperactivity, which is usually a sign of tiredness. Yes even playing with imaginary friends is normal, children have a natural psychedelia about them. Focus on what normal things your child is doing. Medicating someone of that age is highly dangerous, their livers are not fully formed and their brains are developing. Often a proper diagnosis of a baby, which is what you have there, takes years literally years for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and is very controversial. There is a recent article in New Scientist Magazine on this, i suggest you pick it up and have a serious read. Finally it is so rare to have a baby diagnosed with schizophrenia that i have never heard of it before. In children 12-14 in age the statistic is 1/1000-1/10000, The majority of time it appears in young males and females in early adulthood. However if you must, take your child to a GP and he can asses if he is healthy. If there is any psychiatric concern he will send you and him to a pyschiatrist. Personally i think there is no point in cutting off a leg if there is no sign of gangreen.

Posted by: Max at May 22, 2007 12:11 PM


Posted by: JULIO at May 30, 2007 09:36 PM

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