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Alcohol use disorders can be conceptualised as a learned pattern of maladaptive alcohol-consumption behaviours. The memories encoding these behaviours centrally contribute to long-term excessive alcohol consumption and are therefore an important therapeutic target. The transient period of memory instability sparked during memory reconsolidation offers a therapeutic window to directly rewrite these memories using targeted behavioural interventions. However, clinically-relevant demonstrations of the efficacy of this approach are few. We examined key retrieval parameters for destabilising naturalistic drinking memories and the ability of subsequent counterconditioning to effect long-term reductions in drinking.
Hazardous/harmful beer-drinking volunteers (N = 120) were factorially randomised to retrieve (RET) or not retrieve (No RET) alcohol reward memories with (PE) or without (No PE) alcohol reward prediction error. All participants subsequently underwent disgust-based counterconditioning of drinking cues. Acute responses to alcohol were assessed pre- and post-manipulation and drinking levels were assessed up to 9 months.
Greater long-term reductions in drinking were found when counterconditioning was conducted following retrieval (with and without PE), despite a lack of short-term group differences in motivational responding to acute alcohol. Large variability in acute levels of learning during counterconditioning was noted. ‘Responsiveness’ to counterconditioning predicted subsequent responses to acute alcohol in RET + PE only, consistent with reconsolidation-update mechanisms.
The longevity of behavioural interventions designed to reduce problematic drinking levels may be enhanced by leveraging reconsolidation-update mechanisms to rewrite maladaptive memory. However, inter-individual variability in levels of corrective learning is likely to determine the efficacy of reconsolidation-updating interventions and should be considered when designing and assessing interventions.
The adverse effects of insomnia on health and quality of life are matters receiving increasing attention. Yet, surveys have consistently shown that most people suffering from insomnia do not seek medical help, perhaps, in part, because of a concern of becoming dependent on hypnotic medication. The treatment of chronic insomnia poses a particular dilemma in that continuous hypnotic treatment is restricted in many countries to a maximum of 4 weeks, and behavioural treatment is not readily available. Non-nightly hypnotic treatment of chronic insomnia offers a promising alternative option for the many patients whose symptoms do not necessitate nightly drug intake, allaying fears of psychological dependence on medication and respecting regulatory constraints on hypnotic use while providing patients with adequate symptom relief. The practical feasibility and efficacy of this approach has been demonstrated with zolpidem using various treatment regimens and study designs. So far, six clinical trials have been completed on over 4000 patients. Published results show effective treatment of insomnia without any evidence of either adverse event associated with a discontinuous regimen or increased hypnotic use over the treatment period.
This study investigated the attitudes of medical students towards psychiatry, both as a subject on the medical curriculum and as a career choice. Three separate questionnaires previously validated on medical student populations were administered prior to and immediately following an 8-week clinical training programme. The results indicate that the perception of psychiatry was positive prior to clerkship and became even more so on completion of training. On completion of the clerkship, there was a rise in the proportion of students who indicated that they might choose a career in psychiatry. Attitudes toward psychiatry correlated positively with the psychiatry examination results. Those that intended to specialise in psychiatry achieved significantly higher examination scores in the psychiatry examination.
Although genetic and environmental factors operating before or around the time of birth have been demonstrated to be relevant to the aetiology of the major psychoses, a seasonal variation in the rates of admission of such patients has long been recognised. Few studies have compared first and readmissions. This study examined for seasonal variation of admission in the major psychoses, and compared diagnostic categories by admission status. Patients admitted to Irish psychiatric inpatient facilities between 1989 and 1994 with an ICD-9/10 diagnosis of schizophrenia or affective disorder were identified from the National Psychiatric Inpatient Reporting System (NPIRS). The data were analysed using a hierarchical log linear model, the chi-square test, a Kolmogorov-Smirnov (KS) type statistic, and the method of Walter and Elwood. The hierarchical log linear model demonstrated significant interactions between the month of admission and admission order (change in scaled deviance 28.77, df = 11, P < 0.003). Both first admissions with mania, and readmissions with bipolar affective disorder exhibited significant seasonality. In contrast, only first admissions with schizophrenia showed significant seasonal effects. Although first admissions with mania and readmissions with bipolar disorder both show seasonality, seasonal influences appear to be more relevant to onset of schizophrenia than subsequent relapse.
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.
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.
Recent literature suggests that over 70% of cases of antibody-mediated encephalitis present to psychiatry services with features of psychosis predominantly.
To investigate the seroprevalence of N-Methyl-D-Aspartate receptor antibodies (NMDAr-Ab) in patients with first episode psychosis (FEP)
Following ethical approval, all cases meeting entry criteria were invited to participate. Participants were interviewed with SCID to obtain a DSM diagnosis. NMDAr-Ab were identified in serum by cell based assay using co-transfected Human Embryonic Kidney (HEK)cells. Positive cases were reviewed by clinical neurology. Decision to treat with immunotherapy was made on a case by case basis.
85/115 (72%) of patients with FEP entered the study. 49 (58%) participants were male, mean age (SD) 37 (15.7) years. 42 (52%) were outpatients at the time of assessment. Four cases (5%) were serum NMDAr-Ab positive. 3 of these cases were male, age 48 (16.3) years. All four were admitted as inpatients with normal brain MRI imaging. One case (female, 55) was confirmed as NMDAr-Ab encephalitis based on case presentation, EEG demonstrating bilateral cerebral dysfunction and NMDAr-Ab in CSF. Immunotherapy treatment lead to clinical improvement. In remaining cases, EEG was normal and CSF negative. All 3 of these cases showed clinical improvement following psychiatric treatment as usual.
Our findings support the current estimates as to NMDAr-Ab prevalence in FEP. Increased awareness has lead to rapid treatment of florid cases of NMDAr-Ab encephalitis in our service. Additional seropositive cases are being followed with neuro-cognitive testing for any evidence of decline.
The rediscovery of the importance of mental illness in the risk assessment and management of those who threaten, approach, and harm public figures has led to a new way of dealing with those that threaten public figures. This approach emphasises the role of “fixation” which may be defined as an intense preoccupation pursued to an abnormally intense degree. It integrates a threat assessment paradigm with the literature on stalking. The need for such an approach was highlighted in research on the prevalence of harassment of public figures. Psychiatry has a key role in this approach which sees mental health clinicians and Police work together in Fixated Threat Assessment Centres (FTACs). An FTAC functions by assessing the level of concern and sharing information to facilitate interventions that are often mental health based. The purpose is not the hopeless task of identifying those who will go on to perpetrate serious violence, rather to intervene in the group they emerge from, to prevent harm. As well as decreasing risk to the persons fixated upon, this approach improves care to the mentally disordered people who harass and threaten them and, in doing so, decreases the likelihood of their criminalization while enhancing their quality of life. As expertise in the area has grown, policing and security agencies in several countries have expanded the FTAC model to cover individuals thought at risk of lone-actor grievance-fueled violence, a term that captures both different forms of mass killing and lone actor terrorism.
Little is known about who would benefit from Internet-based personalised nutrition (PN) interventions. This study aimed to evaluate the characteristics of participants who achieved greatest improvements (i.e. benefit) in diet, adiposity and biomarkers following an Internet-based PN intervention. Adults (n 1607) from seven European countries were recruited into a 6-month, randomised controlled trial (Food4Me) and randomised to receive conventional dietary advice (control) or PN advice. Information on dietary intake, adiposity, physical activity (PA), blood biomarkers and participant characteristics was collected at baseline and month 6. Benefit from the intervention was defined as ≥5 % change in the primary outcome (Healthy Eating Index) and secondary outcomes (waist circumference and BMI, PA, sedentary time and plasma concentrations of cholesterol, carotenoids and omega-3 index) at month 6. For our primary outcome, benefit from the intervention was greater in older participants, women and participants with lower HEI scores at baseline. Benefit was greater for individuals reporting greater self-efficacy for ‘sticking to healthful foods’ and who ‘felt weird if [they] didn’t eat healthily’. Participants benefited more if they reported wanting to improve their health and well-being. The characteristics of individuals benefiting did not differ by other demographic, health-related, anthropometric or genotypic characteristics. Findings were similar for secondary outcomes. These findings have implications for the design of more effective future PN intervention studies and for tailored nutritional advice in public health and clinical settings.
Approximately 18% of adults with intellectual disabilities living in the community display behaviours that challenge. Intensive support teams (ISTs) have been recommended to provide high-quality responsive care aimed at avoiding unnecessary admissions and reducing lengthy in-patient stays.
To identify and describe the geographical distribution and characteristics of ISTs, and to develop a typology of IST service models in England.
We undertook a national cross-sectional survey of 73 ISTs. A hierarchical cluster analysis was performed based on six prespecified grouping factors (mode of referrals, size of case-load, use of outcome measures, staff composition, hours of operation and setting of service). A simplified form of thematic analysis was used to explore free-text responses.
Cluster analysis identified two models of IST provision: (a) independent and (b) enhanced provision based around a community intellectual disability service. ISTs aspire to adopt person-centred care, mostly use the framework of positive behaviour support for behaviour that challenges, and report concerns about organisational and wider context issues.
This is the first study to examine the delivery of intensive support to people with intellectual disability and behaviour that challenges. A two-cluster model of ISTs was found to have statistical validity and clinical utility. The clinical heterogeneity indicates that further evaluation of these service models is needed to establish their clinical and cost-effectiveness.
Periconceptional folic acid (FA) has an established role in the prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs), leading to global recommendations for FA supplementation before and in early pregnancy. However, it is unclear whether there are any benefits for offspring brain health arising from continued maternal FA supplementation beyond the first trimester. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of maternal folate nutrition during pregnancy in relation to cognitive performance and brain function in the offspring at 11 years. The children of mothers who had participated in a randomised trial of Folic Acid Supplementation in the Second and Third Trimesters (FASSTT) were investigated, providing a unique opportunity to examine offspring brain health in relation to maternal folate (the FASSTT Offspring trial; n = 68). Cognitive performance was assessed using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth UK Edition (WISC-IV). The WISC-IV measures Full Scale IQ and specific domains of cognitive performance: Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Reasoning, Working Memory and Processing Speed. Brain function was measured using magnetoencephalography (MEG) in a subset of the child participants (n = 33). The results showed no significant difference in Full Scale IQ between the children of mothers who had received folic acid versus placebo during pregnancy (P = 0.993). Processing Speed subtest scores were however significantly higher in the folic acid group compared with placebo (Symbol Search: P = 0.046 and Cancellation: P = 0.011). The application of MEG analysis showed that at rest, there were differences in brain functioning with significantly lower overall power at Broad band [1–48Hz] (P = 0.041) and a trend (not significant) towards lower power in all other frequency bands (Theta, Mu, Beta, Low Gamma and High Gamma) in children from the FA group compared with placebo. Results for the responses to the language task (congruent and incongruent sentences) in children from the FA group showed significantly lower power within the Theta band [4–8Hz] and significantly higher power within high frequency bands i.e. Beta [13–30 Hz] and High Gamma [49–70 Hz]. This suggested more efficient language processing abilities in these children compared to children of mothers in the placebo group. The findings provide scientific evidence that continuing FA supplementation beyond the periconceptional period that is protective against NTDs, may be beneficial for brain health in the offspring. Furthermore, this study demonstrates that MEG is a useful tool for objective assessment of functional brain activity in healthy children in response to nutrition intervention.
Introduction: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing and highly comorbid disease. Patients suffering from AUD are frequently seen in the emergency department (ED) presenting intoxicated or in withdrawal. Brief interactions in the ED are often the only portal of entry to the healthcare system for many of these patients. Oral naltrexone and long acting injectable naltrexone are effective treatment options for AUD associated with decreased cravings, shorter length of hospital stay, and lower cost of healthcare utilization. This study's objective was to perform a systematic review of the literature evaluating initiation of naltrexone in the ED. Methods: Electronic searches of Medline, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and CINAHL were conducted and reference lists were hand-searched. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing initiation of naltrexone in patients (≥18 years) to standard care in the ED were included. Two reviewers independently screened titles and abstracts, reviewed full text articles for inclusion, assessed quality of the studies, and extracted data. Results: The search strategy yielded 183 potentially relevant citations. After eliminating duplicate citations and studies that did not meet eligibility criteria, 10 articles were retrieved for full text review. There were no published RCTs that examined naltrexone initiation in the ED. There is one ongoing study being conducted in New York, which aims to assess naltrexone initiation in the ED and measure health outcomes and quality of life of study participants, as well as potential healthcare cost savings. Conclusion: The lack of published research in this area demonstrates a significant gap in knowledge. It is clear that well-designed RCTs are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of initiating naltrexone for those with AUD at the ED visit.
Periconceptional folic acid (FA) is known to have a protective effect in the prevention of neural tube defects (NTD), leading to global recommendations for FA supplementation before and in early pregnancy. Maternal folate throughout pregnancy may have other roles in offspring health, including neurodevelopment and cognitive performance in childhood. Folate is essential for C1 metabolism, a network of pathways involved in several biological processes including nucleotide synthesis, DNA repair and methylation reactions. The evidence reviewed here shows a conclusive role for offspring health of maternal folate nutrition in early pregnancy and probable benefits in later pregnancy. Folate-mediated epigenetic changes in genes related to brain development and function offer a plausible biological basis to link maternal folate with effects in offspring brain, albeit this research is in its infancy. Mandatory FA fortification of food has proven to be highly effective in decreasing NTD cases in populations where it has been implemented, but this policy is controversial owing to concerns related to potential adverse effects of over-exposure to FA. In the absence of population-wide fortification, and given the generally poor compliance with current FA recommendations, optimising folate status of mothers in very early pregnancy for protection against NTD remains challenging. Thus, current policy in the UK, Ireland and elsewhere in Europe for the prevention of NTD (based on periconceptional FA supplementation only), has proven to be largely ineffective. This review addresses the evidence and the controversies that surround this area, as well as identifying the challenges in translating policy into practice.
Habits are behavioral routines that are automatic and frequent, relatively independent of any desired outcome, and have potent antecedent cues. Among individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN), behaviors that promote the starved state appear habitual, and this is the foundation of a recent neurobiological model of AN. In this proof-of-concept study, we tested the habit model of AN by examining the impact of an intervention focused on antecedent cues for eating disorder routines.
The primary intervention target was habit strength; we also measured clinical impact via eating disorder psychopathology and actual eating. Twenty-two hospitalized patients with AN were randomly assigned to 12 sessions of either Supportive Psychotherapy or a behavioral intervention aimed at cues for maladaptive behavioral routines, Regulating Emotions and Changing Habits (REaCH).
Covarying for baseline, REaCH was associated with a significantly lower Self-Report Habit Index (SRHI) score and significantly lower Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire (EDE-Q) global score at the end-of-treatment. The end-of-treatment effect size for SRHI was d = 1.28, for EDE-Q was d = 0.81, and for caloric intake was d = 1.16.
REaCH changed habit strength of maladaptive routines more than an active control therapy, and targeting habit strength yielded improvement in clinically meaningful measures. These findings support a habit-based model of AN, and suggest habit strength as a mechanism-based target for intervention.