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The value of the nosological distinction between non-affective and affective psychosis has frequently been challenged. We aimed to investigate the transdiagnostic dimensional structure and associated characteristics of psychopathology at First Episode Psychosis (FEP). Regardless of diagnostic categories, we expected that positive symptoms occurred more frequently in ethnic minority groups and in more densely populated environments, and that negative symptoms were associated with indices of neurodevelopmental impairment.
This study included 2182 FEP individuals recruited across six countries, as part of the EUropean network of national schizophrenia networks studying Gene–Environment Interactions (EU-GEI) study. Symptom ratings were analysed using multidimensional item response modelling in Mplus to estimate five theory-based models of psychosis. We used multiple regression models to examine demographic and context factors associated with symptom dimensions.
A bifactor model, composed of one general factor and five specific dimensions of positive, negative, disorganization, manic and depressive symptoms, best-represented associations among ratings of psychotic symptoms. Positive symptoms were more common in ethnic minority groups. Urbanicity was associated with a higher score on the general factor. Men presented with more negative and less depressive symptoms than women. Early age-at-first-contact with psychiatric services was associated with higher scores on negative, disorganized, and manic symptom dimensions.
Our results suggest that the bifactor model of psychopathology holds across diagnostic categories of non-affective and affective psychosis at FEP, and demographic and context determinants map onto general and specific symptom dimensions. These findings have implications for tailoring symptom-specific treatments and inform research into the mood-psychosis spectrum.
The relationship between childhood adversity (CA) and psychotic disorder is well documented. As the adequacy of the current categorical diagnosis of psychosis is being increasingly questioned, we explored independent associations between different types of CA and specific psychotic symptom dimensions in a well-characterized sample of first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients.
This study involved 236 FEP cases aged 18–65 years who presented for the first time to psychiatric services in South London, UK. Psychopathology was assessed with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale and confirmatory factor analysis was used to evaluate the statistical fit of the Wallwork/Fortgang five-factor model of psychosis. CA prior to 17 years of age (physical abuse, sexual abuse, parental separation, parental death, and being taken into care) was retrospectively assessed using the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse Questionnaire.
Childhood sexual abuse [β = 0.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.40–1.52], childhood physical abuse (β = 0.48, 95% CI 0.03–0.93) and parental separation (β = 0.60, 95% CI 0.10–1.11) showed significant associations with the positive dimension; while being taken into care was associated with the excited dimension (β = 0.36, 95% CI 0.08–0.65), independent of the other types of CA. No significant associations were found between parental death and any of the symptom dimensions.
A degree of specificity was found in the relationships between different types of CA and psychosis symptom dimensions in adulthood, suggesting that distinct pathways may be involved in the CA–psychosis association. These potentially different routes to developing psychosis merit further empirical and theoretical exploration.
Visual and verbal episodic memory deficits are putative endophenotypes for schizophrenia; however, the extent of any genetic overlap of these with schizophrenia is unclear. In this study, we set out to quantify the genetic and environmental contributions to variance in visual and verbal memory performance, and to quantify their genetic relationship with schizophrenia.
We applied bivariate genetic modelling to 280 twins in a classic twin study design, including monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) pairs concordant and discordant for schizophrenia, and healthy control twins. We assessed episodic memory using subtests of the Wechsler Memory Scale – Revised (WMS-R).
Genetic influences (i.e. heritability) contributed significantly to variance in immediate recall of both verbal memory and visual learning, and the delayed recall of verbal and visual memory. Liability to schizophrenia was associated with memory impairment, with evidence of significant phenotypic correlations between all episodic memory measures and schizophrenia. Genetic factors were the main source of the phenotypic correlations for immediate recall of visual learning material; both immediate and delayed recall of verbal memory; and delayed recall of visual memory that, for example, shared genetic variance with schizophrenia, which accounted for 88% of the phenotypic correlation (rph=0.41) between the two.
Verbal memory and visual learning and memory are moderately heritable, share a genetic overlap with schizophrenia and are valid endophenotypes for the condition. The inclusion of these endophenotypes in genetic association studies may improve the power to detect susceptibility genes for schizophrenia.
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