London, Feb 24: People at greater risk of schizophrenia, a severe disorder characterised by delusions and hallucinations, could see a drop in their intelligent quotient (IQ) as they age, says a new study.
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, using the latest genetic techniques, say the findings could lead to new research into how different genes for schizophrenia affect brain function over time.
“Retaining our thinking skills as we grow older is important for living well and independently. If nature has loaded a person’s genes towards schizophrenia, then there is a slight but detectable worsening in cognitive functions between childhood and old age,” said Ian Deary, professor at the Centre for Cognitive Ageing.
They compared the IQ scores of more than 1,000 people from Edinburgh.
The people were tested for general cognitive functions in 1947, aged 11 years, and again when they were around 70 years old, according to an Edinburgh statement.
The researchers were able to examine people’s genes and calculate each subject’s genetic likelihood of developing schizophrenia, even though none of the group had ever developed the illness.
Schizophrenia affects around one percent of the population, often in the teenage or early adult years, and is associated with problems in mental ability and memory.
They then compared the IQ scores of people with a high and low risk of developing schizophrenia.
Scientists found that there was no difference at age 11, but people with a greater genetic risk of schizophrenia had slightly lower IQs at age 70.
Those people who had more genes linked to schizophrenia also had a greater estimated fall in IQ over their lifetime than those at lower risk.
“With further research into how these genes affect the brain, it could become possible to understand how genes linked to schizophrenia affect people’s cognitive functions as they age,” said Andrew McIntosh, professor at the Edinburgh Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences.