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Study suggests link between epilepsy and schizophrenia

29 June, 2005

People with a
history of epilepsy are at increased risk of developing schizophrenia
and schizophrenia-like psychosis, according to research published by
the BMJ.

The
study involved 2.27 million people who were born in Denmark between
1950 and 1987, whose personal and family histories of epilepsy and
psychosis were obtained, and individuals were monitored for up to 25
years.

The
researchers found that people with a history of epilepsy had nearly two
and a half times the risk of developing schizophrenia and nearly three
times the risk of developing a schizophrenia-like psychosis compared
with the general population. The risk was the same for men and women
but increased with age.

Both
a family history of epilepsy and a family history of psychosis were
also significant risk factors for schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like
psychosis. The increased risk did not differ by type of epilepsy, but
was significantly greater the older people were when they were first
admitted to hospital for epilepsy.

The authors suggest that the two conditions may share common genetic or environmental causes:

'We
think that this study is the first, on a population level, to show that
a family history of epilepsy increases the risk of schizophrenia or
schizophrenia-like psychosis even after adjusting for the effects of
personal history of epilepsy and other factors.

'This finding suggests that genetic or environmental factors shared by family members may have an important role.'