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Br J Psychiatry. 2011 Mar;198(3):173-5. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.084384.

Neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia.

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MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute, Cardiff University, UK.


The neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia provided a valuable framework that allowed a condition that usually presents with frank disorder in adolescence or early adulthood to be understood at least in part as a consequence of events occurring early in development. However, the implications of the neurodevelopmental hypothesis for nosological conceptions of the disorder can only now be fully appreciated. Recent research indicates genetic overlap between schizophrenia and syndromes in which psychopathology is manifest in childhood and that are often grouped together as 'neurodevelopmental disorders' such as autism-spectrum disorders, intellectual disability and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. These findings challenge the aetiological basis of current diagnostic categories and, together with evidence for frequent comorbidity, suggest that we should view the functional psychoses as members of a group of related and overlapping syndromes that result in part from a combination of genetic and environmental effects on brain development and that are associated with specific and general impairments of cognitive function. This has important implications for future research and for the configuration of psychiatric services.

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