December 03, 2007

Slower Early Childhood Growth in Female Children Correlated With the Later Development of Schizophrenia-Spectrum Disorder

A new study, which appears in this month's issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, has found a connection between slow growth in early life and the later development of schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, in women.

They study involved comparisons of measurements between people that had schizophrenia and those that did not. The participants were children born in the city of Alameda, in California, between the years 1959 and 1967; their mothers had agreed to participate in a Child Health and Development Study.

"Measurements of height, weight and body mass index (BMI) were analyzed to compare growth patterns during early life and later childhood between 70 people with schizophrenia-spectrum disorder (SSD) and 7710 without."

The study found that women who later went on to develop SSD grew about 1 cm slower per year as compared to those who did not develop SSD. Interestingly enough, no difference was found in growth between men who did and did not develop SSD. The researchers measured height, weight and body mass index or BMI and found no difference in height between women who went on to develop SSD and women who did not. The researchers also found that early childhood growth, and not later childhood growth, correlated with the later development of SSD.

The researchers comment that these findings add to the increasing evidence that mechanisms responsible for the regulation of physical growth may have a role in causing schizophrenia. Slower growth in infancy is indicative of early disruption in a growth factor (IGF-1) that plays a major part in the regulation of both pre- and postnatal growth. The link between IGF-1 and other adult diseases, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, has already been established.

In the past, we've covered the possible causes of slower growth in children likely to develop mental disorders. That is, we've discussed how stress in the home can disrupt the way in which children develop both physically and mentally, putting them at an increased risk for schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders in later life. Further, people with schizophrenia are more likely than the rest of the population to suffer from heart disease and diabetes. Though conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are often seen as side effects or consequences of having schizophrenia, as the researchers of this study have pointed out, children with a likelihood of developing schizophrenia, may already be predisposed to these other health conditions.

The researchers of this study further pointed out that IGF-1 might also be responsible for abnormal neurodevelopment. Thus "...delays in speech and neuromotor development, and poor intellectual functioning, are early life precursors of adult schizophrenia...Hence, say the researchers, it is possible that cognitive abnormalities and poor intellectual functioning observed prior to the development of schizophrenia might occur in part because of a disturbance in IGF-1."

Full Story: Slower Growth In Early Life May Increase Risk Of Women Developing Schizophrenia, UK.

Related Reading:
Prenatal Stress Associated With Smaller Babies
Social Factors in the Development of Schizophrenia


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