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Identifying youths most at risk to COVID-19-related mental illness is essential for the development of effective targeted interventions.
To compare trajectories of mental health throughout the pandemic in youth with and without prior mental illness and identify those most at risk of COVID-19-related mental illness.
Data were collected from individuals aged 18–26 years (N = 669) from two existing cohorts: IMAGEN, a population-based cohort; and ESTRA/STRATIFY, clinical cohorts of individuals with pre-existing diagnoses of mental disorders. Repeated COVID-19 surveys and standardised mental health assessments were used to compare trajectories of mental health symptoms from before the pandemic through to the second lockdown.
Mental health trajectories differed significantly between cohorts. In the population cohort, depression and eating disorder symptoms increased by 33.9% (95% CI 31.78–36.57) and 15.6% (95% CI 15.39–15.68) during the pandemic, respectively. By contrast, these remained high over time in the clinical cohort. Conversely, trajectories of alcohol misuse were similar in both cohorts, decreasing continuously (a 15.2% decrease) during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic symptom severity predicted the observed mental health trajectories in the population cohort. Surprisingly, being relatively healthy predicted increases in depression and eating disorder symptoms and in body mass index. By contrast, those initially at higher risk for depression or eating disorders reported a lasting decrease.
Healthier young people may be at greater risk of developing depressive or eating disorder symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted mental health interventions considering prior diagnostic risk may be warranted to help young people cope with the challenges of psychosocial stress and reduce the associated healthcare burden.
Tobacco smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable illness and death and is heritable with complex underpinnings. Converging evidence suggests a contribution of the polygenic risk for smoking to the use of tobacco and other substances. Yet, the underlying brain mechanisms between the genetic risk and tobacco smoking remain poorly understood.
Genomic, neuroimaging, and self-report data were acquired from a large cohort of adolescents from the IMAGEN study (a European multicenter study). Polygenic risk scores (PGRS) for smoking were calculated based on a genome-wide association study meta-analysis conducted by the Tobacco and Genetics Consortium. We examined the interrelationships among the genetic risk for smoking initiation, brain structure, and the number of occasions of tobacco use.
A higher smoking PGRS was significantly associated with both an increased number of occasions of tobacco use and smaller cortical volume of the right orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Furthermore, reduced cortical volume within this cluster correlated with greater tobacco use. A subsequent path analysis suggested that the cortical volume within this cluster partially mediated the association between the genetic risk for smoking and the number of occasions of tobacco use.
Our data provide the first evidence for the involvement of the OFC in the relationship between smoking PGRS and tobacco use. Future studies of the molecular mechanisms underlying tobacco smoking should consider the mediation effect of the related neural structure.
Neuroimaging studies of vulnerability to Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) have identified structural and functional variations which might reflect inheritable features in alcohol-naïve relatives of AUD individuals (FH+) compared to controls having no such family history (FH-). However, prior research did not simultaneously account for childhood maltreatment, any clinically significant disorder and maternal AUD. Therefore, we mainly aimed to investigate the brain structure and reward-related neural activations (fMRI), using whole-brain analysis in FH+ young adults with no prevalent confounders.
46 FH+ and 45 FH- male and female participants had no severe childhood maltreatment exposure, neither any psychiatric disorder or AUD, nor a prenatal exposure to maternal AUD. We used a 3 T MRI coupled with a whole brain voxel-based method to compare between groups the grey matter volumes and activations in response to big versus small wins during a Monetary Incentive Delay task. The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire score was used as confounding variable in the analyses to account for the remaining variance between groups.
Compared to FH- controls, FH+ participants had smaller grey matter volumes in the frontal and cingulate regions as well as in the bilateral nucleus accumbens and right insula. The FH+ participants’ fMRI datasets denoted a blunted activation in the middle cingulum with respect to FH- controls’ during the processing of reward magnitude, and a greater activation in the anterior cingulum in response to anticipation of a small win.
Family history of alcohol use disorder is linked to structural and functional variations including brain regions involved in reward processes.
Abnormalities in reward circuit function are considered a core feature of addiction. Yet, it is still largely unknown whether these abnormalities stem from chronic drug use, a genetic predisposition, or both.
In the present study, we investigated this issue using a large sample of adolescent children by applying structural equation modeling to examine the effects of several dopaminergic polymorphisms of the D1 and D2 receptor type on the reward function of the ventral striatum (VS) and orbital frontal cortex (OFC), and whether this relationship predicted the propensity to engage in early alcohol misuse behaviors at 14 years of age and again at 16 years of age.
The results demonstrated a regional specificity with which the functional polymorphism rs686 of the D1 dopamine receptor (DRD1) gene and Taq1A of the ANKK1 gene influenced medial and lateral OFC activation during reward anticipation, respectively. Importantly, our path model revealed a significant indirect relationship between the rs686 of the DRD1 gene and early onset of alcohol misuse through a medial OFC × VS interaction.
These findings highlight the role of D1 and D2 in adjusting reward-related activations within the mesocorticolimbic circuitry, as well as in the susceptibility to early onset of alcohol misuse.
Background. Failure to resist chronic obsessive–compulsive symptoms may denote an altered state of cognitive control. We searched for the cerebral regions engaged in this dysfunction.
Method. Differences in brain regional activity were examined by event-related functional magnetic regional imaging (fMRI) in a group of adolescents or young adults (n=12) with childhood-onset obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), relative to healthy subjects. Subjects performed a conflict task involving the presentation of two consecutive and possibly conflicting prime and target numbers. Patients' image dataset was further analysed according to resistance or non-resistance to symptoms during the scans.
Results. Using volume correction based on a priori hypotheses, an exploratory analysis revealed that, within the prime-target repetition condition, the OCD subjects activated more than healthy subjects a subregion of the anterior cingulate gyrus and the left parietal lobe. Furthermore, compared with ‘resistant’ patients, the ‘non-resistant’ OCD subjects activated a bilateral network including the precuneus, pulvinar and paracentral lobules.
Conclusions. Higher regional activations suggest an abnormal amplification process in OCD subjects during the discrimination of repetitive visual stimuli. The regional distribution of functional changes may vary with the patients' ability to resist obsessions.
Cingulate dysfunction has been reported in schizophrenia. Although the paracingulate sulcus (PCS) is known to be asymmetric in healthy people, little information is available about its morphology in schizophrenia.
To search for morphological anomalies of the PCS in men with early-onset schizophrenia.
The PCS was examined in magnetic resonance images of the brains of men with schizophrenia and 100 healthy men.
A significant asymmetry was found in the brains of healthy volunteers, whose sulci were more frequent and more marked in the left hemisphere. In contrast, the sulcus was as frequent in the right as in the left hemisphere in the patient group. Moreover, patients displayed significantly more rightward asymmetry, and overall less-asymmetrical patterns than the comparison group.
Since the PCS has developed at 36 weeks of gestation, these findings suggest an impaired maturation of the cingulate region during the third trimester.
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