Polygenic risk of schizophrenia and cognition in a population-based survey of older adults

David T. Liebers, Mehdi Pirooznia, Fayaz Seiffudin, Katherine L. Musliner, Peter P. Zandi, Fernando S. Goes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Cognitive impairment is a common feature of the major psychotic disorders, with deficits often present in at risk individuals and unaffected first-degree relatives. Previous studies have suggested that polygenic risk scores (PRS) for schizophrenia (SCZ) are associated with cognitive deficits, but there has been little examination of this association in longitudinal datasets, or comparison with other disorders. We used mixed models to study the association between PRS for 4 adult onset psychiatric disorders with cross-sectional cognitive performance and longitudinal cognitive decline in 8616 older adults from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), followed for an average of 10 years. PRS were computed for SCZ, bipolar disorder (BD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and Alzheimer's disease (ALZ). SCZ PRS associated with decreased cognitive function (z = ?3.00, P = .001, ?R2 = 0.04%), which was largely driven by an association with impaired attention and orientation (z = ?3.33, P = 4.3 × 10?4, ?R2 = 0.08%). We found no effect of BD or MDD PRS on cognition, in contrast to a robust effect of the APOE4/TOMM40 locus (z = ?5.05, P = 2.2 × 10?7, ?R2 = 0.36%), which was primarily associated with impaired verbal memory (z = ?5.15, P = 1.3 × 10?7, ?R2 = 0.21%). APOE4/TOMM40 locus and the ALZ PRS, but not the PRS for SCZ, were associated with greater cognitive decline. In summary, using a large, representative sample of older adults, we found evidence for different degrees of association between polygenic risk for SCZ and genetic risk factors for ALZ on cognitive function and decline, highlighting potential differences in the pathophysiology of cognitive deficits seen in SCZ and ALZ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)984-991
Number of pages8
JournalSchizophrenia bulletin
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2016


  • APOE4
  • Alzheimer's
  • Attention
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cognition
  • Cross-disorder
  • Endophenotype
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Polygenic risk
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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