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J Clin Psychiatry. 2013 Aug;74(8):e747-53. doi: 10.4088/JCP.12m08258.

Impairment of executive function and attention predicts onset of affective disorder in healthy high-risk twins.

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Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen, Rigshospitalet, University Hospital of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 9, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark



To investigate whether measures of cognitive function can predict onset of affective disorder in individuals at heritable risk.


In a high-risk study, 234 healthy monozygotic and dizygotic twins with and without a co-twin history of affective disorder (high- and low-risk twins, respectively) were identified through nationwide registers and assessed at baseline using the Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry, the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), and the cognitive tests Trail Making Test Parts A and B, the Stroop test, and the Cambridge Cognitive Examination-Revised (CAMCOR). Participants were followed longitudinally at 6-month intervals for up to 9 years and finally reassessed with a personal interview to obtain information on whether they had developed psychiatric illness. The study was conducted between 2003 and 2012.


36 participants (15.4%) developed psychiatric disorder, mainly affective and anxiety disorders (31 diagnoses) (ICD-10). Onset was predicted by decreased executive function as reflected by performance on the Trail Making Test A - B (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.02; 95% CI, 1.00-1.03) when adjusted for sex, age, years of education and HDRS score at baseline. Reduced global cognitive function as indicated by a lower CAMCOR score at baseline showed a trend toward an association with subsequent illness onset (P = .08). With regard to the 5 CAMCOR subscales, lower scores on attention (HR = 0.71; 95%, CI, 0.54-0.94) and language (HR = 0.76; 95% CI, 0.58-0.99) were significantly associated with subsequent illness onset.


Among healthy individuals at heritable risk for affective disorder, discrete cognitive deficits, especially within executive function and attention, seem to predict subsequent onset of affective illness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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