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Exposure to traumatic experiences in childhood is a risk (and potentially causal) factor for the development of a range of adverse physical and mental health conditions. In addition to the onset of clinical disorders, there is emerging evidence that childhood trauma may also be associated with other long-term outcomes, such as the persistence and severity of an individual’s symptoms, as well as their long-term social and occupational functioning. However, the reasons for this remain poorly understood. A greater understanding both of the mediators that drive these associations, and those variables that enhance resilience against such damaging experiences may help to inform effective therapeutic interventions. In addition to biological and cognitive measures, there is a need to consider social and environmental factors, such as parental bonding and attachment, when investigating these complex relationships.
Alison R. Yung, Professor of Psychiatry,
Kathryn M. Abel, Professor of Psychological Medicine and Director of the Centre for Women's Mental Health (CWMH) at the University of Manchester,
Sarah Cornick, works for the South London
Holly is an 18-year-old student who lives with her mother in an inner-city area. She had been well until about 5 months previously. In spite of being an above-average student, she started having difficulty with schoolwork. She became easily flustered about homework, frequently missed deadlines and cried about how stressed and tired she felt. She started missing school frequently.
Two months later, Holly started having aches and strange feelings all over and inside her body. She started hearing indistinct whispers, which distressed and further distracted her. The whispering gradually became clearer, until she could make out voices telling her she was ugly and really a man. She started to become unsure of her gender, attributing the strange bodily sensations to her changing sex. She later refused to attend school at all and also refused to see the general practitioner (GP).
Holly became increasingly tearful and stopped washing. She locked herself in her room and her GP advised her mother to take Holly to the local hospital for assessment. Holly was subsequently referred to the local community mental health team, which became concerned about her level of distress and the thoughts she was experiencing that life was not worth living. The mental health team identified her as having a psychotic illness and she was admitted to hospital.
Holly had no past history of psychiatric illness and her childhood was uneventful, except that her mother had experienced postnatal depression after Holly's birth. Holly's parents were divorced, but had shared custody. Although Holly had not visited her father for 3 months before admission, she felt she had a loving relationship with both of them. Her personality had been described as ‘bubbly and warm’ until 6 months before admission, when she had become less happy and more anxious than usual.
Holly was an in-patient for 3 weeks. She was treated with antipsychotic medication. She also received a sleeping tablet at night for a short period after her admission and underwent tests to make sure there were no underlying physical reasons for her symptoms.
Holly settled quickly on the ward and had a good rapport with her treatment team (psychiatrists, nurses, psychologist and occupational therapist).
Faster eating rates are associated with increased energy intake, but little is known about the relationship between children’s eating rate, food intake and adiposity. We examined whether children who eat faster consume more energy and whether this is associated with higher weight status and adiposity. We hypothesised that eating rate mediates the relationship between child weight and ad libitum energy intake. Children (n 386) from the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes cohort participated in a video-recorded ad libitum lunch at 4·5 years to measure acute energy intake. Videos were coded for three eating-behaviours (bites, chews and swallows) to derive a measure of eating rate (g/min). BMI and anthropometric indices of adiposity were measured. A subset of children underwent MRI scanning (n 153) to measure abdominal subcutaneous and visceral adiposity. Children above/below the median eating rate were categorised as slower and faster eaters, and compared across body composition measures. There was a strong positive relationship between eating rate and energy intake (r 0·61, P<0·001) and a positive linear relationship between eating rate and children’s BMI status. Faster eaters consumed 75 % more energy content than slower eating children (Δ548 kJ (Δ131 kcal); 95 % CI 107·6, 154·4, P<0·001), and had higher whole-body (P<0·05) and subcutaneous abdominal adiposity (Δ118·3 cc; 95 % CI 24·0, 212·7, P=0·014). Mediation analysis showed that eating rate mediates the link between child weight and energy intake during a meal (b 13·59; 95 % CI 7·48, 21·83). Children who ate faster had higher energy intake, and this was associated with increased BMI z-score and adiposity.
When used as an adjunctive with antipsychotics, certain vitamins and minerals may be effective for improving symptomatic outcomes of schizophrenia, by restoring nutritional deficits, reducing oxidative stress, or modulating neurological pathways.
We conducted a systematic review of all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) reporting effects of vitamin and/or mineral supplements on psychiatric symptoms in people with schizophrenia. Random-effects meta-analyses were used to calculate the standardized mean difference between nutrient and placebo treatments.
An electronic database search in July 2016 identified 18 eligible RCTs, with outcome data for 832 patients. Pooled effects showed that vitamin B supplementation (including B6, B8 and B12) reduced psychiatric symptoms significantly more than control conditions [g = 0.508, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.01–1.01, p = 0.047, I2 = 72.3%]. Similar effects were observed among vitamin B RCTs which used intention-to-treat analyses (g = 0.734, 95% CI 0.00–1.49, p = 0.051). However, no effects of B vitamins were observed in individual domains of positive and negative symptoms (both p > 0.1). Meta-regression analyses showed that shorter illness duration was associated with greater vitamin B effectiveness (p = 0.001). There were no overall effects from antioxidant vitamins, inositol or dietary minerals on psychiatric symptoms.
There is preliminary evidence that certain vitamin and mineral supplements may reduce psychiatric symptoms in some people with schizophrenia. Further research is needed to examine how the benefits of supplementation relate to nutrient deficits and the impact upon underlying neurobiological pathways, in order to establish optimal nutrient formulations for improving clinical outcomes in this population. Future studies should also explore the effects of combining beneficial nutrients within multi-nutrient formulas.
Cannabis use shows a robust dose-dependent relationship with psychosis risk among the general population. Despite this, it has been difficult to link cannabis use with risk for transitioning to a psychotic disorder among individuals at ultra-high risk (UHR) for psychosis. The present study examined UHR transition risk as a function of cannabis use characteristics which vary substantially between individuals including age of first use, cannabis abuse severity and a history of cannabis-induced attenuated psychotic symptoms (APS).
Participants were 190 UHR individuals (76 males) recruited at entry to treatment between 2000 and 2006. They completed a comprehensive baseline assessment including a survey of cannabis use characteristics during the period of heaviest use. Outcome was transition to a psychotic disorder, with mean time to follow-up of 5.0 years (range 2.4–8.7 years).
A history of cannabis abuse was reported in 58% of the sample. Of these, 26% reported a history of cannabis-induced APS. These individuals were 4.90 (95% confidence interval 1.93–12.44) times more likely to transition to a psychotic disorder (p = 0.001). Greater severity of cannabis abuse also predicted transition to psychosis (p = 0.036). However, this effect was mediated by higher abuse severity among individuals with a history of cannabis-induced APS.
Findings suggest that cannabis use poses risk in a subpopulation of UHR individuals who manifest cannabis-induced APS. Whether this reflects underlying genetic vulnerability requires further study. Nevertheless, findings reveal an important early marker of risk with potentially significant prognostic utility for UHR individuals.
Exercise can improve clinical outcomes in people with severe mental illness (SMI). However, this population typically engages in low levels of physical activity with poor adherence to exercise interventions. Understanding the motivating factors and barriers towards exercise for people with SMI would help to maximize exercise participation. A search of major electronic databases was conducted from inception until May 2016. Quantitative studies providing proportional data on the motivating factors and/or barriers towards exercise among patients with SMI were eligible. Random-effects meta-analyses were undertaken to calculate proportional data and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for motivating factors and barriers toward exercise. From 1468 studies, 12 independent studies of 6431 psychiatric patients were eligible for inclusion. Meta-analyses showed that 91% of people with SMI endorsed ‘improving health’ as a reason for exercise (N = 6, n = 790, 95% CI 80–94). Among specific aspects of health and well-being, the most common motivations were ‘losing weight’ (83% of patients), ‘improving mood’ (81%) and ‘reducing stress’ (78%). However, low mood and stress were also identified as the most prevalent barriers towards exercise (61% of patients), followed by ‘lack of support’ (50%). Many of the desirable outcomes of exercise for people with SMI, such as mood improvement, stress reduction and increased energy, are inversely related to the barriers of depression, stress and fatigue which frequently restrict their participation in exercise. Providing patients with professional support to identify and achieve their exercise goals may enable them to overcome psychological barriers, and maintain motivation towards regular physical activity.
Individuals identified as at ultra-high risk (UHR) for psychosis are at risk of poor functional outcome regardless of development of psychotic disorder. Studies examining longitudinal predictors of poor functioning have tended to be small and report only medium-term follow-up data. We sought to examine clinical predictors of functional outcome in a long-term longitudinal study.
Participants were 268 (152 females, 116 males) individuals identified as UHR 2–14 years previously. A range of clinical and sociodemographic variables were assessed at baseline. Functioning at follow-up was assessed using the Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale (SOFAS).
Baseline negative symptoms, impaired emotional functioning, disorders of thought content, low functioning, past substance use disorder and history of childhood maltreatment predicted poor functioning at follow-up in univariate analyses. Only childhood maltreatment remained significant in the multivariate analysis (p < 0.001). Transition to psychosis was also significantly associated with poor functioning at long-term follow-up [mean SOFAS score 59.12 (s.d. = 18.54) in the transitioned group compared to 70.89 (s.d. = 14.00) in the non-transitioned group, p < 0.001]. Childhood maltreatment was a significant predictor of poor functioning in both the transitioned and non-transitioned groups.
Childhood maltreatment and transition to psychotic disorder independently predicted poor long-term functioning. This suggests that it is important to assess history of childhood maltreatment in clinical management of UHR individuals. The finding that transition to psychosis predicts poor long-term functioning strengthens the evidence that the UHR criteria detect a subgroup at risk for schizophrenia.
The typically poor outcomes of schizophrenia could be improved through interventions that reduce cardiometabolic risk, negative symptoms and cognitive deficits; aspects of the illness which often go untreated. The present review and meta-analysis aimed to establish the effectiveness of exercise for improving both physical and mental health outcomes in schizophrenia patients.
We conducted a systematic literature search to identify all studies that examined the physical or mental effects of exercise interventions in non-affective psychotic disorders. Of 1581 references, 20 eligible studies were identified. Data on study design, sample characteristics, outcomes and feasibility were extracted from all studies and systematically reviewed. Meta-analyses were also conducted on the physical and mental health outcomes of randomized controlled trials.
Exercise interventions had no significant effect on body mass index, but can improve physical fitness and other cardiometabolic risk factors. Psychiatric symptoms were significantly reduced by interventions using around 90 min of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week (standardized mean difference: 0.72, 95% confidence interval −1.14 to −0.29). This amount of exercise was also reported to significantly improve functioning, co-morbid disorders and neurocognition.
Interventions that implement a sufficient dose of exercise, in supervised or group settings, can be feasible and effective interventions for schizophrenia.
We aimed to examine the association between childhood trauma and functional impairment in psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, to speculate on possible mechanisms that underlie this association and discuss the implications for clinical work.
Narrative review of the peer-reviewed English language literature in the area.
High rates of childhood trauma in psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder were identified. This was associated with impaired social and occupational functioning in both the premorbid and established phases of each of these psychiatric disorders over and above the deficits typically observed in these populations. Possible mechanisms mediating this relationship include neurocognitive deficits, insecure attachment, higher rates of comorbidities and problems with adherence and response to treatment.
Routine clinical inquiry about childhood maltreatment should be adopted within mental health settings. This has potentially important treatment implications for identifying those individuals at elevated risk of functional disability. While there is no clear guidance currently available on how to target childhood trauma in the treatment of psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, there are several promising lines of enquiry and further research is warranted.
We made dynamical black hole mass measurements from nineteen Seyfert 2 galaxies which host sub-parsec H2O maser disks using the H2O megamaser technique. The nearly perfect Keplerian rotation curves in many of these maser systems guarantee the high accuracy and precision of the black hole mass measurements. With the stellar velocity dispersion (σ∗) of the galaxy bulges measured with the Dupont 2.5 m telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in the South and the Apache Point Observatory (APO) 3.5m telescope in the North, we found that H2O maser galaxies, most of which host pseudo bulges rather than classical bulges, do not all follow the MBH–σ∗ relation shown in the literature. This result is well consistent with the latest findings by Kormendy & Ho (2013) that only early type galaxies and galaxies with classical bulges follow a tight MBH–σ∗ relation. Such a tight correlation may not exist in pseudo bulge galaxies.
Grey matter volume and cortical thickness represent two complementary aspects of brain structure. Several studies have described reductions in grey matter volume in people at ultra-high risk (UHR) of psychosis; however, little is known about cortical thickness in this group. The aim of the present study was to investigate cortical thickness alterations in UHR subjects and compare individuals who subsequently did and did not develop psychosis.
We examined magnetic resonance imaging data collected at four different scanning sites. The UHR subjects were followed up for at least 2 years. Subsequent to scanning, 50 UHR subjects developed psychosis and 117 did not. Cortical thickness was examined in regions previously identified as sites of neuroanatomical alterations in UHR subjects, using voxel-based cortical thickness.
At baseline UHR subjects, compared with controls, showed reduced cortical thickness in the right parahippocampal gyrus (p < 0.05, familywise error corrected). There were no significant differences in cortical thickness between the UHR subjects who later developed psychosis and those who did not.
These data suggest that UHR symptomatology is characterized by alterations in the thickness of the medial temporal cortex. We did not find evidence that the later progression to psychosis was linked to additional alterations in cortical thickness, although we cannot exclude the possibility that the study lacked sufficient power to detect such differences.
Many research groups have attempted to predict which individuals with an at-risk mental state (ARMS) for psychosis will later develop a psychotic disorder. However, it is difficult to predict the course and outcome based on individual symptoms scores.
Data from 318 ARMS individuals from two specialized services for ARMS subjects were analysed using latent class cluster analysis (LCCA). The score on the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental States (CAARMS) was used to explore the number, size and symptom profiles of latent classes.
LCCA produced four high-risk classes, censored after 2 years of follow-up: class 1 (mild) had the lowest transition risk (4.9%). Subjects in this group had the lowest scores on all the CAARMS items, they were younger, more likely to be students and had the highest Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score. Subjects in class 2 (moderate) had a transition risk of 10.9%, scored moderately on all CAARMS items and were more likely to be in employment. Those in class 3 (moderate–severe) had a transition risk of 11.4% and scored moderately severe on the CAARMS. Subjects in class 4 (severe) had the highest transition risk (41.2%), they scored highest on the CAARMS, had the lowest GAF score and were more likely to be unemployed. Overall, class 4 was best distinguished from the other classes on the alogia, avolition/apathy, anhedonia, social isolation and impaired role functioning.
The different classes of symptoms were associated with significant differences in the risk of transition at 2 years of follow-up. Symptomatic clustering predicts prognosis better than individual symptoms.
The past two decades have seen exponential clinical and research interest in help-seeking individuals presenting with potentially prodromal symptoms for psychosis. However, the epidemiological validity of this paradigm has been neglected, limiting future advancements in the field.
We undertook a critical review of core epidemiological issues underlying the clinical high-risk (HR) state for psychosis and which model of prodromal intervention is best suited for mental health.
The HR state for psychosis model needs refining, to bring together population-based findings of high levels of psychotic experiences (PEs) and clinical expression of risk. Traditionally, outcome has been attributed to ‘HR criteria’ alone rather than taking into account sampling strategies. Furthermore, the exclusive focus on variably defined ‘transition’ obscures true variation in the slow and non-linear progression across stages of psychopathology. Finally, the outcome from HR states is variable, indicating that the underlying paradigm of ‘schizophrenia light progressing to schizophrenia’ is inadequate.
In the general population, mixed and non-specific expression of psychosis, depression, anxiety and subthreshold mania is common and mostly transitory. When combined with distress, it may be considered as the first, diagnostically neutral stage of potentially more severe psychopathology, which only later may acquire a degree of diagnostic specificity and possible relative resistance to treatment. Therefore, rather than creating silos of per-disorder ultra-HR syndromes, an early intervention focus on the broad syndrome of early mental distress, requiring phase-specific interventions, may be more profitable.
Individuals at ultra-high risk (UHR) for psychosis show reduced neurocognitive performance across domains but it is unclear which reductions are associated with transition to frank psychosis. The aim of this study was to investigate differences in baseline neurocognitive performance between UHR participants with (UHR-P) and without transition to psychosis (UHR-NP) and a healthy control (HC) group and examine neurocognitive predictors of transition over the medium to long term.
A sample of 325 UHR participants recruited consecutively from the Personal Assessment and Crisis Evaluation (PACE) Clinic in Melbourne and 66 HCs completed a neurocognitive assessment at baseline. The UHR group was followed up between 2.39 and 14.86 (median = 6.45) years later. Cox regression was used to investigate candidate neurocognitive predictors of psychosis onset.
The UHR group performed more poorly than the HC group across a range of neurocognitive domains but only performance on digit symbol coding and picture completion differed between the groups. The risk of transition was only significantly associated with poorer performance on visual reproduction [hazard ratio (HR) 0.919, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.876–0.965, p = 0.001] and matrix reasoning (HR 0.938, 95% CI 0.883–0.996, p = 0.037). These remained significant even after controlling for psychopathology at baseline.
This study is the longest follow-up of an UHR sample to date. UHR status was associated with poorer neurocognitive performance compared to HCs on some tasks. Cognition at identification as UHR was not a strong predictor of risk for transition to psychosis. The results suggests the need to include more experimental paradigms that isolate discrete cognitive processes to better understand neurocognition at this early stage of illness.
The ‘at-risk’ criteria are a useful paradigm for investigating the psychological, neurocognitive, neurobiological and genetic risk factors for psychosis, specifically schizophrenia. To date, the primary outcome of interest in at-risk research has been the development of psychotic disorder, whereby patients are categorized as either having ‘transitioned’ or ‘not transitioned’. Despite the acceptance of this dichotomy, it is important to consider that the threshold at which psychotic symptoms progress from attenuated to frank ‘psychotic disorder’ is arbitrary and may be incorrect or meaningless in terms of neurobiological and functional changes associated with psychosis. This has implications for clinical care and the search for markers of schizophrenia. We present recent research suggesting that the term ‘outcome’ needs to be broadened to incorporate non-psychotic diagnoses, functioning and negative symptoms. Shifting the traditional notion of outcome is the future challenge for at-risk research, but the inclusion of outcomes other than psychosis is likely to result in better aetiological models of psychotic illness.
In recent years there has been increasing interest in functional recovery in the early phase of schizophrenia. Concurrently, new remission criteria have been proposed and several studies have examined their clinical relevance for prediction of functional outcome in first-episode psychosis (FEP). However, the longitudinal interrelationship between full functional recovery (FFR) and symptom remission has not yet been investigated. This study sought to: (1) examine the relationships between FFR and symptom remission in FEP over 7.5 years; (2) test two different models of the interaction between both variables.
Altogether, 209 FEP patients treated at a specialized early psychosis service were assessed at baseline, 8 months, 14 months and 7.5 years to determine their remission of positive and negative symptoms and functional recovery. Multivariate logistic regression and path analysis were employed to test the hypothesized relationships between symptom remission and FFR.
Remission of both positive and negative symptoms at 8-month follow-up predicted functional recovery at 14-month follow-up, but had limited value for the prediction of FFR at 7.5 years. Functional recovery at 14-month follow-up significantly predicted both FFR and remission of negative symptoms at 7.5 years, irrespective of whether remission criteria were simultaneously met. The association remained significant after controlling for baseline prognostic indicators.
These findings provided support for the hypothesis that early functional and vocational recovery plays a pivotal role in preventing the development of chronic negative symptoms and disability. This underlines the need for interventions that specifically address early psychosocial recovery.
Subclinical psychotic experiences during adolescence may represent liability for developing psychotic disorder. Both coping style and the degree of persistence of psychotic experiences may play a role in the progression to clinical psychotic disorder, but little is known about the causal relationship between the two.
Path modelling was used to examine longitudinal relationships between subclinical positive psychotic experiences and three styles of coping (task-, emotion- and avoidance-oriented) in an adolescent general population sample (n=813) assessed three times in 3 years. Distinct developmental trajectories of psychotic experiences, identified with growth mixture modelling, were compared on the use of these coping styles.
Over time, emotion-oriented coping in general was bi-directionally related to psychotic experiences. No meaningful results were found for task- or avoidance-oriented coping. Females reported using a wider range of coping styles than males, but the paths between coping and psychotic experiences did not differ by gender. Persistence of psychotic experiences was associated with a greater use of emotion-oriented coping, whereas a decrease in experiences over time was associated with an increased use of task-orientated coping.
Emotion-oriented coping is the most important coping style in relation to psychotic experiences, as it may contribute to a ‘vicious cycle’ and is associated with persistence of experiences. In addition, more task-oriented coping may result in a decrease in psychotic experiences. Results suggest that opportunities for intervention may already be present at the level of subclinical psychosis.