Neuromotor Precursors of Schizophrenia

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Abstract

Previous research suggests that in addition to being a characteristic of schizophrenia, neuromotor dysfunction also predates the onset of the syndrome. The research reported here was intended to examine further the neuromotor development of children with preschizophrenia traits. This study is part of a larger “archival-observational” project that uses childhood home movies to explore the developmental precursors of schizophrenia. Group comparisons revealed a higher rate of neuromotor abnormalities in the preschizophrenia children when compared to their healthy siblings, preaffective disorder subjects, the healthy siblings of patients with affective disorder, and subjects from families with no mental illness. The preschizophrenia subjects also showed poorer motor skills when compared to their healthy siblings and preaffective disorder subjects. When diagnostic group comparisons were made within age spans, the group differences were significant only in the first 2 years of life. Post hoc analyses also revealed that the preschizophrenia subjects' neuromotor abnormalities occurred primarily on the left side of the body. The abnormalities included choreoathetoid movements and posturing of the upper limbs, similar to the motor signs described in earlier reports on diagnosed schizophrenia patients. The findings are discussed in light of their implications for the developmental origins of schizophrenia. Limitations of the study, including problems with sample representativeness and the reliance on observational data, are also discussed.

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