Evidence from animal and human studies indicates that thyroid hormone deficiency during early gestation alters brain development. As schizophrenia is associated with prenatal brain insults and premorbid cognitive deficits, we tested the a priori hypothesis that serologically defined maternal thyroid deficiency during early gestation to mid-gestation is associated with schizophrenia in offspring.
The investigation is based on the Finnish Prenatal Study of Schizophrenia, a nested case-control study that included archived maternal sera from virtually all pregnancies since 1983 (N = >1 million). We identified all offspring in the cohort with a diagnosis of schizophrenia based on the national inpatient and outpatient register and matched them on sex, date of birth, and residence in Finland at time of onset of the case to comparison subjects (1:1) from the cohort. Maternal sera of 1010 case-control pairs were assessed for free thyroxine, and sera of 948 case-control pairs were assessed for thyroid-stimulating hormone.
Maternal hypothyroxinemia (free thyroxine =10th percentile, normal thyroid-stimulating hormone) was associated with an increased odds of schizophrenia (odds ratio = 1.75, 95% confidence interval = 1.22-2.50, p = .002). When adjusted for maternal psychiatric history, province of birth, and maternal smoking during pregnancy, the association remained significant (odds ratio = 1.70, 95% confidence interval = 1.13-2.55, p = .010).
In a large, national birth cohort, prospectively documented hypothyroxinemia during early gestation to mid-gestation was associated with increased odds of schizophrenia in offspring. This information can inform translational studies of maternal hypothyroxinemia examining molecular and cellular deviations relevant to schizophrenia.