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Schizophr Bull. 2007 Jul;33(4):853-8. Epub 2006 Sep 15.

Schizophrenia and neural tube defects: comparisons from an epidemiological perspective.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Medicine, Cardiff University, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XN, UK. zammits@cardiff.ac.uk


In this review, we examine and compare epidemiological studies of schizophrenia and neural tube defects (NTDs). Although there is no apparent link between these 2 disparate disorders in terms of clinical manifestation or phenotypes, overlapping patterns in the variation of incidence of schizophrenia with that of NTDs indicate the existence of one or more shared etiological risk factors. Evidence in support of such a phenomenon may enhance our understanding of underlying pathological mechanisms and may guide future studies of etiology and prevention. The similarities that occur in a number of epidemiological observations for these disorders are in keeping with a hypothesis of nutritional deficiencies in utero acting as a risk factor for both schizophrenia and NTDs. Programes of periconceptual folate and multivitamin supplementation aimed to reduce the risk of NTDs are already in place in many countries. Nevertheless, evidence of additional effects of specific maternal micronutrient deficiency on risk of schizophrenia may not only increase enthusiasm for expansion of such programes but also enhance understanding of etiology of this disorder and offer the potential for targeted interventions in high-risk groups.

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