Low Levels Of Thyroid Hormone During Pregnancy Might Increase Schizophrenia Risk In Offspring

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A link may have been discovered between low levels of the thyroid hormone thyroxine in expecting mothers and an increased risk of schizophrenia in their children, according to a new study conducted by Columbia University researchers.

Lower than normal levels of thyroxine are related to cognitive development irregularities often experienced by those with schizophrenia. The thyroid hormone is also associated with preterm birth - another potential risk factor for schizophrenia.

"This work adds to a body of literature suggesting that maternal influences, both environmental and genetic, contribute to the risk of schizophrenia,” said Dr. Alan Brown, senior author of the study. “Although replication in independent studies is required before firm conclusions can be drawn, the study was based on a national birth cohort with a large sample size, increasing the plausibility of the findings."

Thyroxine levels

Researchers looked at the thyroxine levels of over 1,010 mothers of children with schizophrenia and an equal number of matched control mothers. Serum samples were collected during the first and early second trimesters, and it was discovered that 11.8 percent of people with schizophrenia were birthed from mothers with low levels of thyroxine.

While the study looked at participants with just schizophrenia, researchers believe that the findings could also shed new light on additional neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and bipolar disorder.

“As rodent models of maternal hypothyroxinemia have been developed and schizophrenia is largely considered a disorder of brain development, I hope this [study] can inform future animal studies examining molecular and cellular deviations that are relevant to schizophrenia,” said Dr. David Gyllenberg, first author of the study.

Source: AlphaGalileo