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A range of endophenotypes characterise psychosis, however there has been limited work understanding if and how they are inter-related.
This multi-centre study includes 8754 participants: 2212 people with a psychotic disorder, 1487 unaffected relatives of probands, and 5055 healthy controls. We investigated cognition [digit span (N = 3127), block design (N = 5491), and the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (N = 3543)], electrophysiology [P300 amplitude and latency (N = 1102)], and neuroanatomy [lateral ventricular volume (N = 1721)]. We used linear regression to assess the interrelationships between endophenotypes.
The P300 amplitude and latency were not associated (regression coef. −0.06, 95% CI −0.12 to 0.01, p = 0.060), and P300 amplitude was positively associated with block design (coef. 0.19, 95% CI 0.10–0.28, p < 0.001). There was no evidence of associations between lateral ventricular volume and the other measures (all p > 0.38). All the cognitive endophenotypes were associated with each other in the expected directions (all p < 0.001). Lastly, the relationships between pairs of endophenotypes were consistent in all three participant groups, differing for some of the cognitive pairings only in the strengths of the relationships.
The P300 amplitude and latency are independent endophenotypes; the former indexing spatial visualisation and working memory, and the latter is hypothesised to index basic processing speed. Individuals with psychotic illnesses, their unaffected relatives, and healthy controls all show similar patterns of associations between endophenotypes, endorsing the theory of a continuum of psychosis liability across the population.
Many studies have reported that cannabis use increases the risk of a first episode of psychosis (FEP). However, only a few studies have investigated the nature of cannabis-related experiences in FEP patients, and none has examined whether these experiences are similar in FEP and general populations. The aim of this study was to explore differences in self-reported cannabis experiences between FEP and non-psychotic populations.
A total of 252 subjects, who met International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 criteria for FEP, and 217 controls who reported cannabis use were selected from the Genetics and Psychosis (GAP) study. The Medical Research Council Social Schedule and the Cannabis Experience Questionnaire were used to collect sociodemographic data and cannabis use information, respectively.
Both ‘bad’ and ‘enjoyable’ experiences were more commonly reported by FEP subjects than controls. Principal components factor analysis identified four components which explained 62.3% of the variance. Linear regression analysis on the whole sample showed that the type of cannabis used and beliefs about the effect of cannabis on health all contributed to determining the intensity and frequency of experiences. Linear regression analysis on FEP subjects showed that the duration of cannabis use and amount of money spent on cannabis were strongly related to the intensity and frequency of enjoyable experiences in this population.
These results suggest a higher sensitivity to cannabis effects among people who have suffered their first psychotic episode; this hypersensitivity results in them reporting both more ‘bad’ and ‘enjoyable’ experiences. The greater enjoyment experienced may provide an explanation of why FEP patients are more likely to use cannabis and to continue to use it despite experiencing an exacerbation of their psychotic symptoms.
What determines inter-individual variability to impairments in behavioural control that may underlie road-traffic accidents, and impulsive and violent behaviours occurring under the influence of cannabis, the most widely used illicit drug worldwide?
Employing a double-blind, repeated-measures design, we investigated the genetic and neural basis of variable sensitivity to cannabis-induced behavioural dyscontrol in healthy occasional cannabis users. Acute oral challenge with placebo or Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, was combined with functional magnetic resonance imaging, while participants performed a response inhibition task that involved inhibiting a pre-potent motor response. They were genotyped for rs1130233 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the protein kinase B (AKT1) gene.
Errors of inhibition were significantly (p = 0.008) increased following administration of THC in carriers of the A allele, but not in G allele homozygotes of the AKT1 rs1130233 SNP. The A allele carriers also displayed attenuation of left inferior frontal response with THC evident in the sample as a whole, while there was a modest enhancement of inferior frontal activation in the G homozygotes. There was a direct relationship (r = − 0.327, p = 0.045) between the behavioural effect of THC and its physiological effect in the inferior frontal gyrus, where AKT1 genotype modulated the effect of THC.
These results require independent replication and show that differing vulnerability to acute psychomotor impairments induced by cannabis depends on variation in a gene that influences dopamine function, and is mediated through modulation of the effect of cannabis on the inferior frontal cortex, that is rich in dopaminergic innervation and critical for psychomotor control.
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