Developing categorical diagnoses that have biological meaning within the clinical phenotype of psychosis (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar I disorder with psychosis) is as important for developing targeted treatments as for nosological goals. The Bipolar-Schizophrenia Network on Intermediate Phenotypes (B-SNIP) was formed to examine a broad array of intermediate phenotypes across psychotic disorders and to test the hypothesis that intermediate phenotype characteristics are homogeneous within phenomenologically derived DSM-IV diagnoses.
The consortium recruited 933 stable probands with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or psychotic bipolar I disorder, 1,055 of their first-degree relatives, and 459 healthy comparison subjects for clinical characterization and dense phenotyping. Clinical, psychosocial, and family characteristics were contrasted.
All proband groups showed lower psychosocial functioning than the relatives or comparison group. On average, schizophrenia probands showed more symptoms and lower psychosocial functioning than probands with psychotic bipolar disorder, but there was considerable overlap in clinical manifestations. The characteristics of schizoaffective disorder were more often similar to schizophrenia than to psychotic bipolar disorder. The rates of lifetime suicide attempts were high across all proband groups, with the highest reported frequencies in the schizoaffective and bipolar groups. Proband family lineages included both families with “pure” psychosis diagnoses and families with mixed schizophrenia-bipolar diagnoses.
Symptoms, psychosocial functioning, and familial lineage overlap across the three DSM-IV psychosis diagnoses used in B-SNIP. The comingling of psychosis diagnoses within families suggests overlapping genetic determinants across psychoses. These data provide scant evidence for distinct phenotypic clustering around traditional phenomenological diagnoses.