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A range of neuropathological changes occur in the brains of individuals with adult Niemann-Pick type C disease (NPC), a recessive disorder of cholesterol trafficking that results in accumulation of cholesterol and gangliosides in lysosomes, particularly in neurons. One of the most significant regions of grey matter loss occurs in the thalami, which abut the midline. What is not known is whether these are neurodevelopmental in origin well prior to symptomatic onset. We aimed to examine other markers of midline developmental anomalies in adults with NPC.
We examined the size of adhesio interthalamica (AI) and cavum septum pellucidum (CSP) (if present) in nine individuals diagnosed with NPC and nine healthy comparison subjects, matched for age and gender, using a 3T magnetic resonance volumetric sequence and measured the length of the AI and CSP in mm.
We found that 5/9 NPC patients and 0/9 controls had a missing AI. AI length was significantly shorter in the patient group. No subject in other group had a large CSP, and CSP length did not differ. Duration of illness showed a trend to a negative correlation with AI length in patients.
Our findings suggest that adult NPC patients show some markers of early neurodevelopmental disturbance, matching findings seen in psychotic disorders. The differences in AI, but not CSP, suggest neurodevelopmental change may occur early in gestation rather than post-partum. The relationship with duration of illness suggests that there may be atrophy over time in these structures, consistent with prior analyses of grey matter regions in NPC.
Studies investigating cognitive impairments in psychosis and depression have typically compared the average performance of the clinical group against healthy controls (HC), and do not report on the actual prevalence of cognitive impairments or strengths within these clinical groups. This information is essential so that clinical services can provide adequate resources to supporting cognitive functioning. Thus, we investigated this prevalence in individuals in the early course of psychosis or depression.
A comprehensive cognitive test battery comprising 12 tests was completed by 1286 individuals aged 15–41 (mean age 25.07, s.d. 5.88) from the PRONIA study at baseline: HC (N = 454), clinical high risk for psychosis (CHR; N = 270), recent-onset depression (ROD; N = 267), and recent-onset psychosis (ROP; N = 295). Z-scores were calculated to estimate the prevalence of moderate or severe deficits or strengths (>2 s.d. or 1–2 s.d. below or above HC, respectively) for each cognitive test.
Impairment in at least two cognitive tests was as follows: ROP (88.3% moderately, 45.1% severely impaired), CHR (71.2% moderately, 22.4% severely impaired), ROD (61.6% moderately, 16.2% severely impaired). Across clinical groups, impairments were most prevalent in tests of working memory, processing speed, and verbal learning. Above average performance (>1 s.d.) in at least two tests was present for 40.5% ROD, 36.1% CHR, 16.1% ROP, and was >2 SDs in 1.8% ROD, 1.4% CHR, and 0% ROP.
These findings suggest that interventions should be tailored to the individual, with working memory, processing speed, and verbal learning likely to be important transdiagnostic targets.
Clinical high-risk states for psychosis (CHR) are associated with functional impairments and depressive disorders. A previous PRONIA study predicted social functioning in CHR and recent-onset depression (ROD) based on structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) and clinical data. However, the combination of these domains did not lead to accurate role functioning prediction, calling for the investigation of additional risk dimensions. Role functioning may be more strongly associated with environmental adverse events than social functioning.
We aimed to predict role functioning in CHR, ROD and transdiagnostically, by adding environmental adverse events-related variables to clinical and sMRI data domains within the PRONIA sample.
Baseline clinical, environmental and sMRI data collected in 92 CHR and 95 ROD samples were trained to predict lower versus higher follow-up role functioning, using support vector classification and mixed k-fold/leave-site-out cross-validation. We built separate predictions for each domain, created multimodal predictions and validated them in independent cohorts (74 CHR, 66 ROD).
Models combining clinical and environmental data predicted role outcome in discovery and replication samples of CHR (balanced accuracies: 65.4% and 67.7%, respectively), ROD (balanced accuracies: 58.9% and 62.5%, respectively), and transdiagnostically (balanced accuracies: 62.4% and 68.2%, respectively). The most reliable environmental features for role outcome prediction were adult environmental adjustment, childhood trauma in CHR and childhood environmental adjustment in ROD.
Findings support the hypothesis that environmental variables inform role outcome prediction, highlight the existence of both transdiagnostic and syndrome-specific predictive environmental adverse events, and emphasise the importance of implementing real-world models by measuring multiple risk dimensions.
Personalised prediction of functional outcomes is a promising approach for targeted early intervention in psychiatry. However, generalisability and resource efficiency of such prognostic models represent challenges. In the PRONIA study (German Clinical Trials Register: DRKS00005042), we demonstrate excellent generalisability of prognostic models in individuals at clinical high-risk for psychosis or with recent-onset depression, and substantial contributions of detailed clinical phenotyping, particularly to the prediction of role functioning. These results indicate that it is possible that functioning prediction models based only on clinical data could be effectively applied in diverse healthcare settings, so that neuroimaging data may not be needed at early assessment stages.
Childhood trauma (CT) is associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders; however, it is unknown whether this represents a diagnosis-specific risk factor for specific psychopathology mediated by structural brain changes. Our aim was to explore whether (i) a predictive CT pattern for transdiagnostic psychopathology exists, and whether (ii) CT can differentiate between distinct diagnosis-dependent psychopathology. Furthermore, we aimed to identify the association between CT, psychopathology and brain structure.
We used multivariate pattern analysis in data from 643 participants of the Personalised Prognostic Tools for Early Psychosis Management study (PRONIA), including healthy controls (HC), recent onset psychosis (ROP), recent onset depression (ROD), and patients clinically at high-risk for psychosis (CHR). Participants completed structured interviews and self-report measures including the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, SCID diagnostic interview, BDI-II, PANSS, Schizophrenia Proneness Instrument, Structured Interview for Prodromal Symptoms and structural MRI, analyzed by voxel-based morphometry.
(i) Patients and HC could be distinguished by their CT pattern with a reasonable precision [balanced accuracy of 71.2% (sensitivity = 72.1%, specificity = 70.4%, p ≤ 0.001]. (ii) Subdomains ‘emotional neglect’ and ‘emotional abuse’ were most predictive for CHR and ROP, while in ROD ‘physical abuse’ and ‘sexual abuse’ were most important. The CT pattern was significantly associated with the severity of depressive symptoms in ROD, ROP, and CHR, as well as with the PANSS total and negative domain scores in the CHR patients. No associations between group-separating CT patterns and brain structure were found.
These results indicate that CT poses a transdiagnostic risk factor for mental health disorders, possibly related to depressive symptoms. While differences in the quality of CT exposure exist, diagnostic differentiation was not possible suggesting a multi-factorial pathogenesis.
Cigarette smoking is associated with worse cognition and decreased cortical volume and thickness in healthy cohorts. Chronic cigarette smoking is prevalent in schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD), but the effects of smoking status on the brain and cognition in SSD are not clear. This study aimed to understand whether cognitive performance and brain morphology differed between smoking and non-smoking individuals with SSD compared to healthy controls.
Data were obtained from the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank. Cognitive functioning was measured in 299 controls and 455 SSD patients. Cortical volume, thickness and surface area data were analysed from T1-weighted structural scans obtained in a subset of the sample (n = 82 controls, n = 201 SSD). Associations between smoking status (cigarette smoker/non-smoker), cognition and brain morphology were tested using analyses of covariance, including diagnosis as a moderator.
No smoking by diagnosis interactions were evident, and no significant differences were revealed between smokers and non-smokers across any of the variables measured, with the exception of a significantly thinner left posterior cingulate in smokers compared to non-smokers. Several main effects of smoking in the cognitive, volume and thickness analyses were initially significant but did not survive false discovery rate (FDR) correction.
Despite the general absence of significant FDR-corrected findings, trend-level effects suggest the possibility that subtle smoking-related effects exist but were not uncovered due to low statistical power. An investigation of this topic is encouraged to confirm and expand on our findings.
Psychosis is associated with a reasoning bias, which manifests as a tendency to ‘jump to conclusions’. We examined this bias in people at clinical high-risk for psychosis (CHR) and investigated its relationship with their clinical outcomes.
In total, 303 CHR subjects and 57 healthy controls (HC) were included. Both groups were assessed at baseline, and after 1 and 2 years. A ‘beads’ task was used to assess reasoning bias. Symptoms and level of functioning were assessed using the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental States scale (CAARMS) and the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF), respectively. During follow up, 58 (16.1%) of the CHR group developed psychosis (CHR-T), and 245 did not (CHR-NT). Logistic regressions, multilevel mixed models, and Cox regression were used to analyse the relationship between reasoning bias and transition to psychosis and level of functioning, at each time point.
There was no association between reasoning bias at baseline and the subsequent onset of psychosis. However, when assessed after the transition to psychosis, CHR-T participants showed a greater tendency to jump to conclusions than CHR-NT and HC participants (55, 17, 17%; χ2 = 8.13, p = 0.012). There was a significant association between jumping to conclusions (JTC) at baseline and a reduced level of functioning at 2-year follow-up in the CHR group after adjusting for transition, gender, ethnicity, age, and IQ.
In CHR participants, JTC at baseline was associated with adverse functioning at the follow-up. Interventions designed to improve JTC could be beneficial in the CHR population.
Many cognitive functions are under strong genetic control and twin studies have demonstrated genetic overlap between some aspects of cognition and schizophrenia. How the genetic relationship between specific cognitive functions and schizophrenia is influenced by IQ is currently unknown.
We applied selected tests from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) to examine the heritability of specific cognitive functions and associations with schizophrenia liability. Verbal and performance IQ were estimated using The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III and the Danish Adult Reading Test. In total, 214 twins including monozygotic (MZ = 32) and dizygotic (DZ = 22) pairs concordant or discordant for a schizophrenia spectrum disorder, and healthy control pairs (MZ = 29, DZ = 20) were recruited through the Danish national registers. Additionally, eight twins from affected pairs participated without their sibling.
Significant heritability was observed for planning/spatial span (h2 = 25%), self-ordered spatial working memory (h2 = 64%), sustained attention (h2 = 56%), and movement time (h2 = 47%), whereas only unique environmental factors contributed to set-shifting, reflection impulsivity, and thinking time. Schizophrenia liability was associated with planning/spatial span (rph = −0.34), self-ordered spatial working memory (rph = −0.24), sustained attention (rph = −0.23), and set-shifting (rph = −0.21). The association with planning/spatial span was not driven by either performance or verbal IQ. The remaining associations were shared with performance, but not verbal IQ.
This study provides further evidence that some cognitive functions are heritable and associated with schizophrenia, suggesting a partially shared genetic etiology. These functions may constitute endophenotypes for the disorder and provide a basis to explore genes common to cognition and schizophrenia.
The typical onset of schizophrenia coincides with the maturational peak in cognition; however, for a significant proportion of patients the onset is before age 18 and after age 30 years. While cognitive deficits are considered core features of schizophrenia, few studies have directly examined the impact of age of illness onset on cognition.
The aim of the study was to examine if the effects of age on cognition differ between healthy controls (HCs) and patients with schizophrenia at illness onset. We examined 156 first-episode antipsychotic-naïve patients across a wide age span (12–43 years), and 161 age- and sex-matched HCs. Diagnoses were made according to ICD-10 criteria. Cognition was assessed using the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia (BACS), and IQ was estimated using subtests from the Wechsler adult- or child-intelligence scales. Multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) was used to examine linear and quadratic effects of age on cognitive scores and interactions by group, including sex and parental socioeconomic status as covariates.
There was a significant overall effect of age on BACS and IQ (p < 0.001). Significant group-by-age interactions for verbal memory (for age-squared, p = 0.009), and digit sequencing (for age, p = 0.01; age-squared, p < 0.001), indicated differential age-related trajectories between patients and HCs.
Cognitive functions showing protracted maturation into adulthood, such as verbal memory and verbal working memory, may be particularly impaired in both early- and late-schizophrenia onset. Our findings indicate a potential interaction between the timing of neurodevelopmental maturation and a possible premature age effect in late-onset schizophrenia.
In a prospective cohort design, we investigated: i) diagnostic stability of initially antipsychotic-naïve schizophrenia patients, ii) symptom severity including symptomatic remission, and iii) functional remission including full recovery.
We included 143 antipsychotic-naïve patients with first-episode schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. After 4–18 years, we clinically re-evaluated diagnosis, symptom severity and functioning for 70 patients. From the nationwide Danish registers, we extracted pragmatic outcome measures for 142 patients. We examined associations between baseline variables (age at diagnosis, sex, and premorbid intelligence) and long-term outcome status (symptomatic and functional remission).
At 4–18 years follow-up, 80% met the criteria for schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, however, despite the high diagnostic stability 53% met the criteria of symptomatic and/or functional remission. Symptomatic remission characterized 34% of the patients and was associated with female sex, better premorbid intelligence, and a younger age at schizophrenia diagnosis. Functional remission characterized 41% of the patients and 17% of patients met criteria for full recovery both of which were associated with female sex. The clinically re-evaluated patients did not differ from the drop-outs on key register-based variables.
We confirm the emerging evidence of a decreasing long-term diagnostic stability of schizophrenia, and a protective role of female sex. The association between premorbid intelligence and symptomatic remission underscores the pertinence of including cognitive deficits in the diagnostic category of schizophrenia. The association between younger age at diagnosis and symptomatic remission may reflect positive effects of early detection or a drift in the interpretation of the diagnostic classification system.
Integration of brain structural information into prognostic and treatment formulation is key for achieving an all-encompassing biopsychosocial approach in psychiatry. Uncovering biological markers of specific mental illnesses, specific illness stages and of remission, may help further our understanding of the aetiology and precipitators of certain types of psychopathologies, identify central neurobiological processes as distinct from epiphenomena, validate boundaries of clinical groups, and potentially aid in predicting response to treatment. This book chapter reviewed the current structural neuroimaging evidence in three prominent mental illness domains: schizophrenia-spectrum, bipolar and depressive disorders. The large degree of overlap in abnormal neuropathology across the broad mental illness groups, which is no doubt partially due to within-group heterogeneity, makes the discovery of sets or networks of localized diagnosis-specific neural biomarkers unlikely. However, this is not to say that subtle distinctions in neural abnormalities do not exist, but rather challenges the usefulness of traditional diagnostic categories in the context of brain imaging being applied within a clinical staging model. A focus on identifying and characterising microscale circuits that are dysfunctional and which map onto symptomatology in a transdiagnostic manner, may have the greatest implications for clinical translation in the near future.
In schizophrenia, relative stability in the magnitude of cognitive deficits across age and illness duration is inconsistent with the evidence of accelerated deterioration in brain regions known to support these functions. These discrepant brain–cognition outcomes may be explained by variability in cognitive reserve (CR), which in neurological disorders has been shown to buffer against brain pathology and minimize its impact on cognitive or clinical indicators of illness.
Age-related change in fluid reasoning, working memory and frontal brain volume, area and thickness were mapped using regression analysis in 214 individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 168 healthy controls. In patients, these changes were modelled as a function of CR.
Patients showed exaggerated age-related decline in brain structure, but not fluid reasoning compared to controls. In the patient group, no moderation of age-related brain structural change by CR was evident. However, age-related cognitive change was moderated by CR, such that only patients with low CR showed evidence of exaggerated fluid reasoning decline that paralleled the exaggerated age-related deterioration of underpinning brain structures seen in all patients.
In schizophrenia-spectrum illness, CR may negate ageing effects on fluid reasoning by buffering against pathologically exaggerated structural brain deterioration through some form of compensation. CR may represent an important modifier that could explain inconsistencies in brain structure – cognition outcomes in the extant literature.
Objectives: The Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) is a complex measure of executive function that is frequently employed to investigate the schizophrenia spectrum. The successful completion of the task requires the interaction of multiple intact executive processes, including attention, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and concept formation. Considerable cognitive heterogeneity exists among the schizophrenia spectrum population, with substantive evidence to support the existence of distinct cognitive phenotypes. The within-group performance heterogeneity of individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorder (SSD) on the WCST has yet to be investigated. A data-driven cluster analysis was performed to characterise WCST performance heterogeneity. Methods: Hierarchical cluster analysis with k-means optimisation was employed to identify homogenous subgroups in a sample of 210 schizophrenia spectrum participants. Emergent clusters were then compared to each other and a group of 194 healthy controls (HC) on WCST performance and demographic/clinical variables. Results: Three clusters emerged and were validated via altered design iterations. Clusters were deemed to reflect a relatively intact patient subgroup, a moderately impaired patient subgroup, and a severely impaired patient subgroup. Conclusions: Considerable within-group heterogeneity exists on the WCST. Identification of subgroups of patients who exhibit homogenous performance on measures of executive functioning may assist in optimising cognitive interventions. Previous associations found using the WCST among schizophrenia spectrum participants should be reappraised. (JINS, 2019, 25, 750–760)
It is unclear how individual differences in parenting and brain development interact to influence adolescent mental health outcomes. This study examined interactions between structural brain development and observed maternal parenting behavior in the prediction of adolescent depressive symptoms and psychological well-being. Whether findings supported diathesis-stress or differential susceptibility frameworks was tested. Participants completed observed interactions with their mothers during early adolescence (age 13), and the frequency of positive and aggressive maternal behavior were coded. Adolescents also completed structural magnetic resonance imaging scans at three time points: mean ages 13, 17, and 19. Regression models analyzed interactions between maternal behavior and longitudinal brain development in the prediction of late adolescent (age 19) outcomes. Indices designed to distinguish between diathesis-stress and differential susceptibility effects were employed. Results supported differential susceptibility: less thinning of frontal regions was associated with higher well-being in the context of low levels of aggressive maternal behavior, and lower well-being in the context of high levels of aggressive maternal behavior. Findings suggest that reduced frontal cortical thinning during adolescence may underlie increased sensitivity to maternal aggressive behavior for better and worse and highlight the importance of investigating biological vulnerability versus susceptibility.
While previous studies have identified relationships between hippocampal volumes and memory performance in schizophrenia, these relationships are not apparent in healthy individuals. Further, few studies have examined the role of hippocampal subfields in illness-related memory deficits, and no study has examined potential differences across varying illness stages. The current study aimed to investigate whether individuals with early and established psychosis exhibited differential relationships between visuospatial associative memory and hippocampal subfield volumes.
Measurements of visuospatial associative memory performance and grey matter volume were obtained from 52 individuals with a chronic schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, 28 youth with recent-onset psychosis, 52 older healthy controls, and 28 younger healthy controls.
Both chronic and recent-onset patients had impaired visuospatial associative memory performance, however, only chronic patients showed hippocampal subfield volume loss. Both chronic and recent-onset patients demonstrated relationships between visuospatial associative memory performance and hippocampal subfield volumes in the CA4/dentate gyrus and the stratum that were not observed in older healthy controls. There were no group by volume interactions when chronic and recent-onset patients were compared.
The current study extends the findings of previous studies by identifying particular hippocampal subfields, including the hippocampal stratum layers and the dentate gyrus, that appear to be related to visuospatial associative memory ability in individuals with both chronic and first-episode psychosis.
Currently, there is an intense pursuit of pathognomonic markers and diagnostic (‘risk-based’) classifiers of psychiatric conditions. Commonly, the epidemiological prevalence of the condition is not factored into the development of these classifiers. By not adjusting for prevalence, classifiers overestimate the potential of their clinical utility. As valid predictive values have critical implications in public health and allocation of resources, development of clinical classifiers should account for the prevalence of psychiatric conditions in both general and high-risk populations. We suggest that classifiers are most likely to be useful when targeting enriched populations.
Major depressive disorder is a common diagnosis associated with a high burden of disease that has proven to be highly heterogeneous and unreliable. Treatments currently available demonstrate limited efficacy and effectiveness. New drug development is urgently required but is likely to be hindered by diagnostic limitations.
Lithium and quetiapine are considered standard maintenance agents for bipolar disorder yet it is unclear how their efficacy compares with each other.
To investigate the differential effect of lithium and quetiapine on symptoms of depression, mania, general functioning, global illness severity and quality of life in patients with recently stabilised first-episode mania.
Maintenance trial of patients with first-episode mania stabilised on a combination of lithium and quetiapine, subsequently randomised to lithium or quetiapine monotherapy (up to 800 mg/day) and followed up for 1 year. (Trial registration: Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry – ACTRN12607000639426.)
In total, 61 individuals were randomised. Within mixed-model repeated measures analyses, significant omnibus treatment × visit interactions were observed for measures of overall psychopathology, psychotic symptoms and functioning. Planned and post hoc comparisons further demonstrated the superiority of lithium treatment over quetiapine.
In people with first-episode mania treated with a combination of lithium and quetiapine, continuation treatment with lithium rather than quetiapine is superior in terms of mean levels of symptoms during a 1-year evolution.
The aetiological boundary between obsessive–compulsive related disorders
(OCRDs) including obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety
disorders is unclear and continues to generate debate.
To determine the genetic overlap and the pattern of causal relationships
among OCRDs and anxiety disorders.
Multivariate twin modelling methods and a new regression analysis to
infer causation were used, involving 2495 male and female twins.
The amount of common genetic liability observed for OCD symptoms was
higher when considering anxiety disorders and OCRDs in the model
v. modelling OCRD symptoms alone. OCD symptoms
emerged as risk factors for the presence of generalised anxiety, panic
and hoarding symptoms, whereas social phobia appeared as a risk factor
for OCD symptoms.
OCD represents a complex phenotype that includes important shared
features with anxiety disorders and OCRDs. The novel patterns of risk
identified between OCD and anxiety disorder may help to explain their