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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.
White matter (WM) abnormalities are proposed as potential endophenotypic markers of bipolar disorder (BD). In a diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) voxel-based analysis (VBA) study of families multiply affected with BD, we previously reported that widespread abnormalities of fractional anisotropy (FA) are associated with both BD and genetic liability for illness. In the present study, we further investigated the endophenotypic potential of WM abnormalities by applying DTI tractography to specifically investigate tracts implicated in the pathophysiology of BD.
Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data were acquired from 19 patients with BD type I from multiply affected families, 21 of their unaffected first-degree relatives and 18 healthy volunteers. DTI tractography was used to identify the cingulum, uncinate fasciculus (UF), arcuate portion of the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF), corpus callosum, and the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC). Regression analyses were conducted to investigate the effect of participant group and genetic liability on FA and radial diffusivity (RD) in each tract.
We detected a significant effect of group on both FA and RD in the cingulum, SLF, callosal splenium and ILF driven by reduced FA and increased RD in patients compared to controls and relatives. Increasing genetic liability was associated with decreased FA and increased RD in the UF, and decreased FA in the SLF, among patients.
WM microstructural abnormalities in limbic, temporal and callosal pathways represent microstructural abnormalities associated with BD whereas alterations in the SLF and UF may represent potential markers of endophenotypic risk.
Reduced P300 event-related potential (ERP) amplitude and latency prolongation have been reported in patients with schizophrenia compared to healthy controls. However, the influence of antipsychotics (and dopamine) on ERP measures are poorly understood and medication confounding remains a possibility.
We explored ERP differences between 36 drug-naive patients with schizophrenia and 138 healthy controls and examined whether P300 performance was related to dopamine transporter (DAT) availability, both without the confounding effects of medication. We also conducted a random effects meta-analysis of the available literature, synthesizing the results of three comparable published articles and our local study.
No overall significant difference was found in mean P300 ERP between patients and controls in latency or in amplitude. There was a significant gender effect, with females showing greater P300 amplitude than males. A difference between patients and controls in P300 latency was evident with ageing, with latency increasing faster in patients. No effect of DAT availability on P300 latency or amplitude was detected. The meta-analysis computed the latency pooled standardized effect size (PSES; Cohen's d) of −0.13 and the amplitude PSES (Cohen's d) of 0.48, with patients showing a significant reduction in amplitude.
Our findings suggest the P300 ERP is not altered in the early stages of schizophrenia before medication is introduced, and the DAT availability does not influence the P300 ERP amplitude or latency. P300 ERP amplitude reduction could be an indicator of the progression of illness and chronicity.
Impaired spatial working memory (SWM) is a robust feature of schizophrenia and has been linked to the risk of developing psychosis in people with an at-risk mental state (ARMS). We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural substrate of SWM in the ARMS and in patients who had just developed schizophrenia.
fMRI was used to study 17 patients with an ARMS, 10 patients with a first episode of psychosis and 15 age-matched healthy comparison subjects. The blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response was measured while subjects performed an object–location paired-associate memory task, with experimental manipulation of mnemonic load.
In all groups, increasing mnemonic load was associated with activation in the medial frontal and medial posterior parietal cortex. Significant between-group differences in activation were evident in a cluster spanning the medial frontal cortex and right precuneus, with the ARMS groups showing less activation than controls but greater activation than first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients. These group differences were more evident at the most demanding levels of the task than at the easy level. In all groups, task performance improved with repetition of the conditions. However, there was a significant group difference in the response of the right precuneus across repeated trials, with an attenuation of activation in controls but increased activation in FEP and little change in the ARMS.
Abnormal neural activity in the medial frontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex during an SWM task may be a neural correlate of increased vulnerability to psychosis.
Auditory P50 sensory gating deficits correlate with genetic risk for schizophrenia and constitute a plausible endophenotype for the disease. The well-supported role of catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neuregulin 1 (NRG1) genes in neurodevelopment and cognition make a strong theoretical case for their influence on the P50 endophenotype.
The possible role of NRG1, COMT Val158Met and BDNF Val66Met gene polymorphisms on the P50 endophenotype was examined in a large sample consisting of psychotic patients, their unaffected relatives and unrelated healthy controls using linear regression analyses.
Although P50 deficits were present in patients and their unaffected relatives, there was no evidence for an association between NRG1, COMT Val158Met or BDNF Val66Met genotypes and the P50 endophenotype.
The evidence from our large study suggests that any such association between P50 indices and NRG1, COMT Val158Met or BDNF Val66Met genotypes, if present, must be very subtle.
Abnormalities in early social development and personality are present in patients with schizophrenia and their unaffected relatives. This study aimed to establish the degree to which these childhood and adolescent developmental abnormalities are genetically determined.
We used a combined twin and family study design (n=531) to assess childhood and adolescent social adjustment and schizotypal personality traits in 98 twin pairs (n=196) varying in their zygosity and concordance for schizophrenia and 156 sibling clusters (n=335) varying in their concordance for schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia was significantly associated with childhood and adolescent deficits in social adjustment and personality, with additive genetic effects being the main source of these phenotypic correlations.
Abnormalities of social adjustment and personality are present in children and adolescents who later develop schizophrenia, reflecting the influence of common genetic risk.
Morphometric endophenotypes which have been proposed for psychotic disorders include lateral ventricular enlargement and hippocampal volume reductions. Genetic epidemiological studies support an overlap between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and COMT, BDNF, 5-HTT, NRG1 and DTNBP1 genes have been implicated in the aetiology of both these disorders. This study examined associations between these candidate genes and morphometric endophenotypes for psychosis.
A total of 383 subjects (128 patients with psychosis, 194 of their unaffected relatives and 61 healthy controls) from the Maudsley Family Psychosis Study underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging and genotyping. The effect of candidate genes on brain morphometry was examined using linear regression models adjusting for clinical group, age, sex and correlations between members of the same family.
The results showed no evidence of association between variation in COMT genotype and lateral ventricular, and left or right hippocampal volumes. Neither was there any effect of the BDNF, 5-HTTLPR, NRG1 and DTNBP1 genotypes on these regional brain volumes.
Abnormal hippocampal and lateral ventricular volumes are among the most replicated endophenotypes for psychosis; however, the influences of COMT, BDNF, 5-HTT, NRG1 and DTNBP1 genes on these key brain regions must be very subtle if at all present.
Despite the increasing development of early intervention services for psychosis, little is known about their cost-effectiveness. We assessed the cost-effectiveness of Outreach and Support in South London (OASIS), a service for people with an at-risk mental state (ARMS) for psychosis.
The costs of OASIS compared to care as usual (CAU) were entered in a decision model and examined for 12- and 24-month periods, using the duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) and rate of transition to psychosis as key parameters. The costs were calculated on the basis of services used following referral and the impact on employment. Sensitivity analysis was used to test the robustness of all the assumptions made in the model.
Over the initial 12 months from presentation, the costs of the OASIS intervention were £1872 higher than CAU. However, after 24 months they were £961 less than CAU.
This model suggests that services that permit early detection of people at high risk of psychosis may be cost saving.
Impaired P300 auditory response has been reported in patients with psychotic bipolar disorder (BPD) and unaffected relatives of psychotic bipolar patients. Deficits in mismatch negativity (MMN), however, have not been observed in bipolar patients. To our knowledge, no family study of MMN in BPD has been reported. The current study combined the Maudsley twin and bipolar family samples using genetic model fitting analyses to: (1) assess the relationship between BPD and MMN, (2) substantiate the association between psychotic BPD and P300 variables, (3) verify the genetic overlap of BPD with P300 amplitude previously reported in the twin sample, and (4) examine the shared genetic influences between BPD and bilateral temporal scalp locations of P300 components.
A total of 301 subjects were included in this study, including 94 twin pairs, 31 bipolar families, and 39 unrelated healthy controls. Statistical analyses were based on structural equation modelling.
Both P300 and MMN are heritable, with heritability estimates of 0.58 for MMN, 0.68–0.80 for P300 amplitude, and 0.21–0.56 for P300 latency. The bipolar patients and their relatives showed normal MMN. No significant association, either genetic or environmental, was found with BPD. BPD was significantly associated with reduced P300 amplitude and prolonged latency on midline and bilateral temporal-posterior scalp areas. Shared genetic factors were the main source of these associations.
The results confirm that MMN is not an endophenotype for psychotic BPD whereas P300 amplitude and latency components are valid endophenotypes for psychotic BPD.
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