BACKGROUND: Cognitive alterations are a central and heterogeneous trait in psychotic disorders, driven by environmental, familial and illness-related factors. In this study, we aimed to prospectively investigate the impact of high familial risk for cognitive alterations, unconfounded by illness-related factors, on symptomatic outcomes in patients.
METHODS: In total, 629 probands with non-affective psychosis and their sibling not affected by psychosis were assessed at baseline, 3- and 6-year follow-up. Familial cognitive risk was modeled by three cognitive subtypes ('normal', 'mixed' and 'impaired') in the unaffected siblings. Generalized linear mixed models assessed multi-cross-sectional associations between the sibling cognitive subtype and repeated measures of proband symptoms across all assessments. Between-group differences over time were assessed by adding an interaction effect of time and sibling cognitive subtype.
RESULTS: Probands affected by psychosis with a sibling of the impaired cognitive subtype were less likely to be in symptomatic remission and showed more disorganization across all time points. When assessing differences over time, probands of siblings with the impaired cognitive subtype showed less remission and less improvement of disorganization after 3 and 6 years relative to the other subtypes. They also showed less reduction of positive, negative and excitement symptoms at 6-year follow-up compared to probands with a sibling of the normal cognitive subtype.
CONCLUSIONS: Cross-sibling pathways from higher levels of familial cognitive vulnerability to worse long-term outcomes may be informative in identifying cognition-related environmental and genetic risks that impact psychotic illness heterogeneity over time.