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Brain Cogn. 2008 Dec;68(3):462-75. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2008.08.027. Epub 2008 Oct 7.

Does performance on the standard antisaccade task meet the co-familiality criterion for an endophenotype?

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  • 1Psychology Research Laboratory, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478-9106, USA.


The "co-familiality" criterion for an endophenotype has two requirements: (1) clinically unaffected relatives as a group should show both a shift in mean performance and an increase in variance compared with controls; (2) performance scores should be heritable. Performance on the antisaccade task is one of several candidate endophenotypes for schizophrenia. In this paper we examine whether the various measures of performance on the standard version of the antisaccade task meet the co-familiality criterion for an endophenotype. The three measures of performance-reflexive saccade errors, latency of correct antisaccades, and gain-show a wide range of effect sizes and variance ratios as well as evidence of significant or near significant heterogeneity. The estimated mean effect sizes [Cohen's d: error rate: 0.34 (SD: 0.29); latency: 0.33 (SD: 0.30); gain: 0.54 (SD: 0.38)] are significantly greater than 0, but the magnitude of the departures from 0 is relatively small, corresponding to modest effect sizes. The width of the 95% confidence intervals for the estimated effect sizes (error rate: 0.2-0.49; latency: 0.17-0.50; gain: 0.23-0.85) and the coefficients of variation in effect sizes (error rate: 85.3%; latency: 90.9%; gain: 68.4%) reflect heterogeneity in effect sizes. The effect sizes for error rate showed statistically significant heterogeneity and those for latency (P=.07) and gain (P=.09) showed a trend toward heterogeneity. These results indicate that the effect sizes are not consistent with a single mean and that the average effect size may be a biased estimate of the magnitude of differences in performance between relatives of schizophrenics and controls. Relatives of schizophrenics show a small but significant increase in variance in error rate, but the confidence interval is broad, perhaps reflecting the heterogeneity in effect size. The variance ratios for latency and gain did not differ in relatives of schizophrenics and controls. Performance, as measured by error rate, is moderately heritable. The data do not provide compelling support for a consistent shift in mean or variance in relatives of schizophrenia patients compared with nonpsychiatric controls, both of which are required for a major gene involved in co-familial transmission. This set of findings suggests that although intra-familial resemblance in antisaccade performance is due in part to genetic factors, it may not be related to a schizophrenia genotype. Based on the current literature, it would be premature to conclude that any of the measures of antisaccade performance unambiguously meets the co-familiality criterion for an endophenotype.

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