Relationship between phenylalanine tolerance and psychological characteristics of phenylketonuric families

Robert O. Fisch, Pi Nian Chang, Lloyd Sines, Sanford Weisberg, Samuel P. Bessman

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The purpose of this study was to find out how genetic and biochemical limitations influence psycho-social performance and to partially test the validity of justification theory. The ability to convert phenylalanine to tyrosine was compared with intellectual and personality characteristics in PKU family members. Each of the tested persons was given an oral dose of phenylalanine, the Shipley-Hartford Intelligence Test, and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). Only those persons with reading ability at the sixth grade level or higher were tested. Eighty-six persons were tested: fifteen PKUs, forty-three siblings, and twenty-eight parents. A comparison was made among parents, PKUs, and the siblings. Siblings with the higher 2 3's of P2 T ratios were contrasted with those with the lowest 1 3 of ratios on measures of intelligence and psychopathology. Statistical analyses of the data reflected a trend in support of the justification theory. PKUs had significantly lower intelligence than their sibs and parents. The PKUs' mean IQ was 95 (homozygotes born of heterozygotes), followed by the upper 2 3's sibling mean IQ of 105 (heterozygotes born of nonheterozygote mothers). The lower 1 3 siblings' mean IQ was 107 (nonheterozygotes born from heterozygote mothers), and finally, the parents' mean IQ was 109 (heterozygotes, among them 50% were born from nonheterozygote mothers). The latter three mean IQs are not significantly different from each other. The personality tests revealed a trend toward more abnormality in PKUs than in their heterozygote siblings. The lowest rate of abnormality occurred in the nonheterozygote sibling group; that rate was significantly lower than in all other groups. The parents had the highest absolute rate of personality abnormality, but statistically so compared only to the low-ratio siblings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-245
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1985


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