Background: Impairments in cognitive functions are common in patients suffering from psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Cognitive traits have been proposed as useful for understanding the biological and genetic mechanisms implicated in cognitive function in healthy individuals and in the dysfunction observed in psychiatric disorders. Methods: Sets of genes associated with a range of cognitive functions often impaired in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were generated from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on a sample comprising 670 healthy Norwegian adults who were phenotyped for a broad battery of cognitive tests. These gene sets were then tested for enrichment of association in GWASs of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The GWAS data was derived from three independent single-centre schizophrenia samples, three independent single-centre bipolar disorder samples, and the multi-centre schizophrenia and bipolar disorder samples from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Results: The strongest enrichments were observed for visuospatial attention and verbal abilities sets in bipolar disorder. Delayed verbal memory was also enriched in one sample of bipolar disorder. For schizophrenia, the strongest evidence of enrichment was observed for the sets of genes associated with performance in a colour-word interference test and for sets associated with memory learning slope. Conclusions: Our results are consistent with the increasing evidence that cognitive functions share genetic factors with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Our data provides evidence that genetic studies using polygenic and pleiotropic models can be used to link specific cognitive functions with psychiatric disorders
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