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Alterations in theory of mind in patients with schizophrenia and non-psychotic relatives

Authors

  • I. Janssen,

    1. Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, azM/Mondriaan/Riagg/RIBW/Vijverdal Academic Centre, EURON, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands and
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  • L. Krabbendam,

    1. Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, azM/Mondriaan/Riagg/RIBW/Vijverdal Academic Centre, EURON, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands and
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  • J. Jolles,

    1. Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, azM/Mondriaan/Riagg/RIBW/Vijverdal Academic Centre, EURON, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands and
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  • Jim Van Os

    1. Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, azM/Mondriaan/Riagg/RIBW/Vijverdal Academic Centre, EURON, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands and
    2. Division of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London, UK
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Prof. J. van Os, Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616 (DRT 10), 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands
E-mail: j.vanos@sp.unimaas.nl

Abstract

Objective: It has been proposed that alterations in theory of mind underlie specific symptoms of psychosis. The present study examined whether alterations in theory of mind reflect a trait that can be detected in non-psychotic relatives of patients with schizophrenia.

Method: Participants were 43 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, 41 first-degree non-psychotic relatives and 43 controls from the general population. Theory of mind was assessed using a hinting task and a false-belief task.

Results: There was a significant association between schizophrenia risk and failure on the hinting task (OR linear trend = 2.01, 95% CI: 1.22–3.31), with relatives having intermediate values between patients and controls. Adjustment for IQ and neuropsychological factors reduced the association by small amounts. The association between schizophrenia risk and failure on the false-belief tasks was not significant.

Conclusion: Changes in theory of mind are associated with schizophrenia liability. General cognitive ability and neuropsycholo- gical measures seem to mediate only part of this association.

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