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Long Before Psychosis, Verbal Ability Suffers

4 March 2013. Thinking, remembering, and paying attention are all part of a healthy brain’s skill set, but difficulties with these and other cognitive abilities emerge in conjunction with schizophrenia. Verbal skills fall off well before illness onset, and could signal derailed brain development, according to a study published online January 16 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Led by James MacCabe of King’s College London, U.K., in collaboration with colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, the study tested the cognitive development of Swedish young men at 13 and again at 18 years of age. During this time, those who developed a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia trailed behind in their verbal development compared to those who remained healthy.

The lag in verbal skills emerged a decade or more before psychosis onset, and so could be an early, outward sign of trouble with the prolonged process of building a brain. In the teenage years, the brain’s wiring matures, and even subtle problems with this process could leave it vulnerable to future psychosis. (For more details on this study, see SRF related news story.)—Michele Solis.

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