People with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia may be protected against the disease if they have a high IQ, finds a new study conducted by scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University of Sweden.
This contradicts the popular myth that schizophrenia is directly linked to brilliance.
Advertisement"If you're really smart, your genes for schizophrenia don't have much of a chance of acting," says lead author Kenneth S. Kendler, who is a professor of psychiatry and human and molecular genetics at the VCU School of Medicine.
In the study, the researchers gauged the IQ of 1.2 million Swedish males born between 1951 and 1975.
Hospitalization due to schizophrenia was tracked for 24 years and ended in 2010.
"What really predicted risk for schizophrenia is how much you deviate from the predicted IQ that we get from your relatives. If you're quite a bit lower, that carries a high risk for schizophrenia. Not achieving the IQ that you should have based on your genetic constitution and family background seems to most strongly predispose for schizophrenia," noted Kendler.
While the effect is fairly robust, it does not completely rule out the possibility of schizophrenia in highly intelligent people.
"The question is, might we see some upward bump at that high level of intelligence where really brilliant people have increased risk for the disease and we show no such trend," added Kendler.