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Unit cohesion may protect service member mental health by mitigating effects of combat exposure; however, questions remain about the origins of potential stress-buffering effects. We examined buffering effects associated with two forms of unit cohesion (peer-oriented horizontal cohesion and subordinate-leader vertical cohesion) defined as either individual-level or aggregated unit-level variables.
Longitudinal survey data from US Army soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 were analyzed using mixed-effects regression. Models evaluated individual- and unit-level interaction effects of combat exposure and cohesion during deployment on symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and suicidal ideation reported at 3 months post-deployment (model n's = 6684 to 6826). Given the small effective sample size (k = 89), the significance of unit-level interactions was evaluated at a 90% confidence level.
At the individual-level, buffering effects of horizontal cohesion were found for PTSD symptoms [B = −0.11, 95% CI (−0.18 to −0.04), p < 0.01] and depressive symptoms [B = −0.06, 95% CI (−0.10 to −0.01), p < 0.05]; while a buffering effect of vertical cohesion was observed for PTSD symptoms only [B = −0.03, 95% CI (−0.06 to −0.0001), p < 0.05]. At the unit-level, buffering effects of horizontal (but not vertical) cohesion were observed for PTSD symptoms [B = −0.91, 90% CI (−1.70 to −0.11), p = 0.06], depressive symptoms [B = −0.83, 90% CI (−1.24 to −0.41), p < 0.01], and suicidal ideation [B = −0.32, 90% CI (−0.62 to −0.01), p = 0.08].
Policies and interventions that enhance horizontal cohesion may protect combat-exposed units against post-deployment mental health problems. Efforts to support individual soldiers who report low levels of horizontal or vertical cohesion may also yield mental health benefits.
We examined demographic, clinical, and psychological characteristics of a large cohort (n = 368) of adults with dissociative seizures (DS) recruited to the CODES randomised controlled trial (RCT) and explored differences associated with age at onset of DS, gender, and DS semiology.
Prior to randomisation within the CODES RCT, we collected demographic and clinical data on 368 participants. We assessed psychiatric comorbidity using the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.) and a screening measure of personality disorder and measured anxiety, depression, psychological distress, somatic symptom burden, emotional expression, functional impact of DS, avoidance behaviour, and quality of life. We undertook comparisons based on reported age at DS onset (<40 v. ⩾40), gender (male v. female), and DS semiology (predominantly hyperkinetic v. hypokinetic).
Our cohort was predominantly female (72%) and characterised by high levels of socio-economic deprivation. Two-thirds had predominantly hyperkinetic DS. Of the total, 69% had ⩾1 comorbid M.I.N.I. diagnosis (median number = 2), with agoraphobia being the most common concurrent diagnosis. Clinical levels of distress were reported by 86% and characteristics associated with maladaptive personality traits by 60%. Moderate-to-severe functional impairment, high levels of somatic symptoms, and impaired quality of life were also reported. Women had a younger age at DS onset than men.
Our study highlights the burden of psychopathology and socio-economic deprivation in a large, heterogeneous cohort of patients with DS. The lack of clear differences based on gender, DS semiology and age at onset suggests these factors do not add substantially to the heterogeneity of the cohort.
The ‘jumping to conclusions’ (JTC) bias is associated with both psychosis and general cognition but their relationship is unclear. In this study, we set out to clarify the relationship between the JTC bias, IQ, psychosis and polygenic liability to schizophrenia and IQ.
A total of 817 first episode psychosis patients and 1294 population-based controls completed assessments of general intelligence (IQ), and JTC, and provided blood or saliva samples from which we extracted DNA and computed polygenic risk scores for IQ and schizophrenia.
The estimated proportion of the total effect of case/control differences on JTC mediated by IQ was 79%. Schizophrenia polygenic risk score was non-significantly associated with a higher number of beads drawn (B = 0.47, 95% CI −0.21 to 1.16, p = 0.17); whereas IQ PRS (B = 0.51, 95% CI 0.25–0.76, p < 0.001) significantly predicted the number of beads drawn, and was thus associated with reduced JTC bias. The JTC was more strongly associated with the higher level of psychotic-like experiences (PLEs) in controls, including after controlling for IQ (B = −1.7, 95% CI −2.8 to −0.5, p = 0.006), but did not relate to delusions in patients.
Our findings suggest that the JTC reasoning bias in psychosis might not be a specific cognitive deficit but rather a manifestation or consequence, of general cognitive impairment. Whereas, in the general population, the JTC bias is related to PLEs, independent of IQ. The work has the potential to inform interventions targeting cognitive biases in early psychosis.
Altered neurocognitive function in schizophrenia could reflect both genetic and illness-specific effects.
To use functional magnetic resonance imaging to discriminate between the influences of the genetic risk for schizophrenia and environmental factors on the neural substrate of verbal fluency, a candidate schizophrenia endophenotype using a case control twin design.
We studied 23 monozygotic twin pairs: 13 pairs discordant for schizophrenia and 10 pairs of healthy volunteer twins. Groups were matched for age, gender, handedness, level of education, parental socio-economic status, and ethnicity. Behavioural performance and regional brain activation during a phonological verbal fluency task were assessed.
Relative to healthy control twins, both patients and their non-psychotic co-twins produced fewer correct responses and showed less activation in the medial temporal region and inferior frontal gyrus. Twins with schizophrenia showed greater activation than both their non-psychotic co-twins and controls in right lateral temporal cortex, reflecting reduced deactivation during word generation while their non-psychotic co-twins showed greater activation in the left temporal cortex.
Both genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia and schizophrenia were associated with impaired verbal fluency performance, reduced engagement of the medial temporal region and dorsal inferior frontal gyrus. Schizophrenia was specifically associated with an additional reduction in deactivation in the right temporal cortex.
Recent studies have identified DAAO as a probable susceptibility gene for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. However, little is known about how this gene may affect brain function to increase vulnerability to these disorders.
The present investigation examined the impact of DAAO genotype on brain function in patients with schizophrenia, patients with bipolar I disorder and healthy volunteers.
We tested the hypotheses that the high-risk variant of DAAO would be associated with altered prefrontal function and functional connectivity in schizophrenic and bipolar patients.
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain responses during a verbal fluency task in a total of 121 subjects comprising 40 patients with schizophrenia, 33 patients with bipolar I disorder and 48 healthy volunteers. We then used statistical parametric mapping (SPM) and psycho-physiological interaction (PPI) analyses to estimate the main effects of diagnostic group, the main effect of genotype and their interaction on brain activation and functional connectivity.
In schizophrenic patients relative to bipolar patients and controls, the high-risk variant of DAAO was associated with lower deactivation in the left precuneus and greater activation in the right calcarine and posterior cingulate gyrus during task performance. In addiction, these areas expressed altered functional connectivity with the rest of the brain in schizophrenic patients relative to bipolar patients and controls.
Our results suggest that genetic variation in DAAO has a significant impact on brain function and provide preliminary evidence for a disease-specific pattern of gene action in specific brain regions.
Epidemiological studies have reported that the increased risk of developing psychosis in cannabis users is dose related. In addition, experimental research has shown that the active constituent of cannabis responsible for its psychotogenic effect is Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (Murray et al, 2007). Recent evidence has suggested an increased in potency (% TCH) in the cannabis seized in the UK (Potter et al, 2007).
We predicted that first episode psychosis patients are more likely to use higher potency cannabis and more frequently than controls.
We collected information concerning socio-demographic, clinical characteristics and cannabis use (age at first use, frequency, length of use, type of cannabis used) from a sample of 191 first-episode psychosis patients and 120 matched healthy volunteers. All were recruited as part of the Genetic and Psychosis (GAP) study which studied all patients who presented to the South London and Maudsley Trust.
There was no significant difference in the life-time prevalence of cannabis use or age at first use between cases and controls. However, cases were more likely to be regular users (p=0.05), to be current users (p=0.04) and to have smoked cannabis for longer (p=0.01). Among cannabis users, 86.8% of 1st Episode Psychosis Patients preferentially used Skunk/Sinsemilla compared to 27.7% of Controls. Only 13.2 % of 1st Episode psychosis Patients chose to use Resin/Hash compared to 76.3% of controls. The concentration of TCH in these in South East London, ranges between 8.5 and 14 % (Potter et al, 2007). Controls (47%) were more likely to use Hash (Resin) whose average TCH concentration is 3.4% (Potter et al, 2007).
Patients with first episode psychosis have smoked higher potency cannabis, for longer and with greater frequency, than healthy controls.
We sought to explore whether obstetric complications (OCs) are more likely to occur in the presence of familial/genetic susceptibility for schizophrenia or whether they themselves represent an independent environmental risk factor for schizophrenia.
The presence of OCs was assessed through maternal interview on 216 subjects, comprising 36 patients with schizophrenia from multiply affected families, 38 of their unaffected siblings, 31 schizophrenic patients with no family history of psychosis, 51 of their unaffected siblings and 60 normal comparison subjects. We examined the familiality of OCs and whether OCs were commoner in the patient and sibling groups than in the control group.
OCs tended to cluster within families, especially in multiply affected families. Patients with schizophrenia, especially those from multiply affected families, had a significantly higher rate of OCs compared to normal comparison subjects, but there was no evidence for an elevated rate of OCs in unaffected siblings.
Our data provides little evidence for a link between OCs and genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia. If high rates of OCs are related to schizophrenia genes, this relationship is weak and will only be detected by very large sample sizes.
P300 wave anomalies correlate with genetic risk for schizophrenia and constitute a plausible endophenotype for the disease. The COMT gene is thought to influence cognitive performance and to be a susceptibility gene for schizophrenia. Unlike two previous studies, we found no significant influence of the COMT gene on P300 amplitude or latency in 189 individuals examined. The well-supported role of the COMT gene both in dopamine catabolism as well as in prefrontal cognition makes a strong theoretical case for the influence of COMT Val158Met polymorphism on P300 endophenotypes. However, the available neurophysiologic evidence suggests that any such association, if present, must be very subtle.
To examine the effect of a polymorphism in the Dopamine Transporter (DAT) gene on brain activation during executive function and, for the first time:
1. determine the extent to which this is altered in schizophrenia and
2. use a verbal fluency paradigm.
This is relevant since:
1. DAT plays a key role in the regulation of dopamine, which modulates cortical activation during cognitive tasks and
2. a disruption of dopamine function is a fundamental pathophysiological feature of schizophrenia.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure whole-brain responses during overt verbal fluency in 85 subjects: 44 healthy volunteers and 41 DSM-IV schizophrenia patients. Main effects of genotype and diagnostic group on activation and their interaction were estimated using an ANOVA in SPM5.
The 10-repeat allele of the 3'UTR VNTR was associated with greater activation than the 9-repeat allele in the left (Z=4.8; FWEp=0.005) and right (Z=4.2; FWEp=0.057) anterior insula and with decreased activation in the rostral anterior cingulate (Z=4.3 FWEp=0.04) during word generation (versus baseline). These effects were irrespective of diagnostic group but generally more marked in patients. There were also strong trends for groupxgenotype interactions in the left middle frontal gyrus and the left nucleus accumbens. Analysis was controlled for task performance, IQ, antipsychotic medication, psychopathology and demographics.
Cortical function during executive tasks is normally modulated by variation in the DAT gene, effect which is dependent on the brain region. DAT's effect may be altered in schizophrenia patients, which may reflect altered central dopamine function.
Impaired working memory is a core feature of schizophrenia and is linked with altered engagement the lateral prefrontal cortex. Although altered PFC activation has been reported in people with increased risk of psychosis, at present it is not clear if this neurofunctional alteration differs between familial and clinical risk states and/or increases in line with the level of psychosis risk. We addressed this issue by using functional MRI and a working memory paradigm to study familial and clinical high-risk groups. We recruited 17 subjects at ultra-high-risk (UHR) for psychosis, 10 non-affected siblings of patients with schizophrenia (familial high risk [FHR]) and 15 healthy controls. Subjects were scanned while performing the N-back working memory task. There was a relationship between the level of task-related deactivation in the medial PFC and precuneus and the level of psychosis risk, with deactivation weakest in the UHR group, greatest in healthy controls, and at an intermediate level in the FHR group. In the high-risk groups, activation in the precuneus was associated with the level of negative symptoms. These data suggest that increased vulnerability to psychosis is associated with a failure to deactivate in the medial PFC and precuneus during a working memory task, and appears to be most evident in subjects at clinical, as opposed to familial high risk.
The heritability of the brain’s structure and function in schizophrenia remains elusive
To assess the influence of genetic and environmental factors on executive function in schizophrenia.
A twin-sibling study of 206 subjects; 163 twins, varying in their zygosity and concordance for schizophrenia, and 43 singletons from sibling clusters varying in their concordance for schizophrenia. We assessed performance and regional brain activation using functional magnetic resonance imaging, during a phonological verbal fluency task.
Patients and their unaffected relatives developed greater activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus, and greater deactivation in the middle temporal gyri bilaterally. These features were maximally evident in subjects with schizophrenia. When the analysis was restricted to the unaffected relatives and healthy controls, a similar pattern was evident. Heritability was greatest in the left hippocampus and the right middle temporal gyrus. Genetic modelling indicated a phenotypic correlation between schizophrenia and increased activity in the inferior frontal gyrus and reduced activity in the left middle temporal gyrus and left hippocampus, which appeared principally due to shared genetic effects.
Both schizophrenia and its familial vulnerability were associated with altered frontal, parahippocampal and temporal activation during verbal fluency. The altered left inferior frontal activity was particularly associated with schizophrenia, while altered left medial temporal and right middle temporal activity were more heritable. The latter was more intimately linked to the genetic risk for schizophrenia, and thus the better candidate intermediate phenotype.