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Psychiatry Res. 1997 Feb 7;66(2-3):131-44.

Sex differences in neuropsychological function in non-psychotic relatives of schizophrenic probands.

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  • 1Harvard Institute of Psychiatry Epidemiology and Genetics, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

Abstract

Some recent studies suggest that men with schizophrenia may have greater neuropsychological deficits than women. It is not known, however, whether similar sex differences may be present in biological relatives of schizophrenic patients. We evaluated neuropsychological functioning of 54 relatives of schizophrenic patients and 72 normal volunteers. It was hypothesized that, if sex differences were present, they would be accounted for largely by deficits in male relatives. We were particularly interested in three neuropsychological functions that we previously identified as putative neuropsychological vulnerability indicators for schizophrenia: (1) abstraction/executive function; (2) verbal memory; and (3) auditory attention. There were significant group x sex interactions for verbal memory and motor function, and trends toward significant interactions for auditory attention and mental control/encoding. However, with the exception of motor function, it was the female relatives who accounted for most of the impairment. A speculative explanation for the findings is that women may have a higher threshold than men for developing schizophrenia. If so, female relatives might be able to withstand greater impairments than men before developing psychotic symptoms. Consequently, in a sample that was limited to non-psychotic relatives--as in the present study--there could be over-representation of both less impaired men and more impaired women. Alternative explanations and limitations of the study are also discussed.

PMID:
9075277
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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