It was thought that great minds might be at a greater risk of developing schizophrenia. But new research conducted on this particular subject suggests otherwise.
The researchers of the Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University situated in U.S. and Sweden respectively, came together to conduct the largest study which explores the influence of a high IQ in the development of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is the much feared, debilitating neurodevelopmental disorder which affects 1% people world wide with male predominance. Commonly occurring during late teens to mid twenties, the condition is characterized by a severe psychosis, delusions, hallucinations and loss of insight. Patients present with social withdrawal, controlled feelings and altered thought processes.
World Health Organization estimates that around 21 million people, world wide are affected by this disease. Only half of these patients receive treatment.
Now, to observe the link between IQ and Schizophrenia, the researchers followed males, born through 1951 to 1975, which amounts up to over 1.2 million Swedish men in all. The IQ of the participants was assessed at the ages of 18 – 20 years (when patients first start showing symptoms). They were assessed again at the age of 24 years old.
The results showed that people who had a low IQ in contrast to the IQ of the siblings, were at the greatest risk
“If you’re really smart, your genes for schizophrenia don’t have much of a chance of acting. What really predicted risk for schizophrenia is how much you deviate from the predicted IQ that we get from your relatives.” said Kenneth S. Kendler who led the study and is a professor of psychiatry at the Virginia Commonwealth University.
Schizophrenia is a multifactorial disease, but previously it was thought that developmental problems were not a cause for it. However, it is now accepted that children who have experienced any form of abuse or trauma are at risk. The same issues may also result in developmental delay and a low IQ, predisposing a person to the disease. Development of the disease later in life could very well be triggered by stressors.
“If you’re quite a bit lower, that carries a high risk for schizophrenia. Not achieving the IQ that you should have based on your genetic constitution and family background seems to most strongly predispose for schizophrenia,” explained Kendler.