Alterations in general intellectual ability and social cognition in schizophrenia are core features of the disorder, evident at the illness' onset and persistent throughout its course. However, previous studies examining cognitive alterations in siblings discordant for schizophrenia yielded inconsistent results. Present study aimed to investigate the nature of the association between facial emotion recognition and general IQ by applying genetically sensitive cross-trait cross-sibling design. Participants (total n=158; patients, unaffected siblings, controls) were assessed using the Benton Facial Recognition Test, the Degraded Facial Affect Recognition Task (DFAR) and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III. Patients had lower IQ and altered facial emotion recognition in comparison to other groups. Healthy siblings and controls did not significantly differ in IQ and DFAR performance, but siblings exhibited intermediate angry facial expression recognition. Cross-trait within-subject analyses showed significant associations between overall DFAR performance and IQ in all participants. Within-trait cross-sibling analyses found significant associations between patients' and siblings' IQ and overall DFAR performance, suggesting their familial clustering. Finally, cross-trait cross-sibling analyses revealed familial covariation of facial emotion recognition and IQ in siblings discordant for schizophrenia, further indicating their familial etiology. Both traits are important phenotypes for genetic studies and potential early clinical markers of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders.
- Cognitive alterations
- Schizophrenia families
- Cross-trait cross-sibling design