Neurological assessment was carried out on patients with schizophrenia from multiply and singly affected families, their relatives, and a normal control group (214 subjects). A systematic examination was used in which abnormal signs were divided into 'primary' and 'integrative' signs. Primary signs were elicited by a standard clinical neurological examination and included signs of focal damage to nuclei and tracts, whilst integrative signs were selected as reflecting distributed brain function. The assessments were carried out to test the hypotheses that (i) neurological abnormalities are present in schizophrenia, (ii) the pattern of abnormality is different in familial and sporadic schizophrenic subjects, and (iii) the well relatives of familial (but not sporadic) schizophrenic subjects will show neurological abnormalities. An excess of primary signs compared with the controls was demonstrated in the sporadic schizophrenic group only. Both the familial schizophrenics and their first-degree relatives (but not their sporadic counterparts) showed an increase in integrative signs. The results support the existence of different mechanisms of underlying brain dysfunction in familial and sporadic schizophrenia.