Genetic risk for schizophrenia, obstetric complications, and adolescent school outcome: evidence for gene-environment interaction.Schizophr Bull 2013; 39(5):1067-76SB
Low birth weight (LBW) and hypoxia are among the environmental factors most reliably associated with schizophrenia; however, the nature of this relationship is unclear and both gene-environment interaction and gene-environment covariation models have been proposed as explanations. High-risk (HR) designs that explore whether obstetric complications differentially predict outcomes in offspring at low risk (LR) vs HR for schizophrenia, while accounting for differences in rates of maternal risk factors, may shed light on this question. This study used prospectively obtained data to examine relationships between LBW and hypoxia on school outcome at age 15-16 years in a Finnish sample of 1070 offspring at LR for schizophrenia and 373 offspring at HR for schizophrenia, based on parental psychiatric history. Controlling for offspring sex, maternal smoking, social support, parity, age, and number of prenatal care visits, HR offspring performed worse than LR offspring across academic, nonacademic, and physical education domains. LBW predicted poorer academic and physical education performance in HR offspring, but not in LR offspring, and this association was similar for offspring of fathers vs mothers with schizophrenia. Hypoxia predicted poorer physical education score across risk groups. Rates of LBW and hypoxia were similar for LR and HR offspring and for offspring of fathers vs mothers with schizophrenia. Results support the hypothesis that genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia confers augmented vulnerability of the developing brain to the effects of obstetric complications, possibly via epigenetic mechanisms.