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Both low birthweight and high birthweight are associated with cognitive impairment in persons with schizophrenia and their first-degree relatives

  • M. Torniainen (a1) (a2), A. Wegelius (a1) (a3), A. Tuulio-Henriksson (a1) (a2) (a4), J. Lönnqvist (a1) (a2) (a5) and J. Suvisaari (a1) (a6)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 29 January 2013

Both low birthweight and high birthweight have been associated with an increased risk for schizophrenia and cognitive impairments in the general population. We assessed the association between birthweight and cognitive performance in persons with schizophrenia and their unaffected first-degree relatives.


We investigated a population-based family sample comprising persons with schizophrenia (n = 142) and their unaffected first-degree relatives (n = 277). Both patients and relatives were interviewed with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders, Clinician Version (SCID-CV) and a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery was administered. Information on birthweight was obtained from obstetric records. We used generalized estimating equation (GEE) models to investigate the effect of birthweight, as a continuous variable, on cognitive functioning, adjusting for within-family correlation and relevant covariates.


Both low birthweight and high birthweight were associated with lower performance in visuospatial reasoning, processing speed, set-shifting and verbal and visual working memory among persons with schizophrenia and their unaffected first-degree relatives compared to individuals with birthweight in the intermediate range. The group × birthweight interactions were non-significant.


Both low birthweight and high birthweight are associated with deficits in cognition later in life. Schizophrenia does not seem to modify the relationship between birthweight and cognition in families with schizophrenia.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: M. Torniainen, M.Psych., Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, National Institute for Health and Welfare, PO Box 30, 00271 Helsinki, Finland. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
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