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22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS), one of the most common recurrent copy number variant disorders, is associated with dopaminergic abnormalities and increased risk for psychotic disorders.
Given the elevated prevalence of substance use and dopaminergic abnormalities in non-deleted patients with psychosis, we investigated the prevalence of substance use in 22q11DS, compared with that in non-deleted patients with psychosis and matched healthy controls.
This cross-sectional study involved 434 patients with 22q11DS, 265 non-deleted patients with psychosis and 134 healthy controls. Psychiatric diagnosis, full-scale IQ and COMT Val158Met genotype were determined in the 22q11DS group. Substance use data were collected according to the Composite International Diagnostic Interview.
The prevalence of total substance use (36.9%) and substance use disorders (1.2%), and weekly amounts of alcohol and nicotine use, in patients with 22q11DS was significantly lower than in non-deleted patients with psychosis or controls. Compared with patients with 22q11DS, healthy controls were 20 times more likely to use substances in general (P < 0.001); results were also significant for alcohol and nicotine use separately. Within the 22q11DS group, there was no relationship between the prevalence of substance use and psychosis or COMT genotype. Male patients with 22q11DS were more likely to use substances than female patients with 22q11DS.
The results suggest that patients with 22q11DS are at decreased risk for substance use and substance use disorders despite the increased risk of psychotic disorders. Further research into neurobiological and environmental factors involved in substance use in 22q11DS is necessary to elucidate the mechanisms involved.
Decline in cognitive functioning precedes the first psychotic episode in the course of schizophrenia and is considered a hallmark symptom of the disorder. Given the low incidence of schizophrenia, it remains a challenge to investigate whether cognitive decline coincides with disease-related changes in brain structure, such as white matter abnormalities. The 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) is an appealing model in this context, as 25% of patients develop psychosis. Furthermore, we recently showed that cognitive decline also precedes the onset of psychosis in individuals with 22q11DS. Here, we investigate whether the early cognitive decline in patients with 22q11DS is associated with alterations in white matter microstructure.
We compared the fractional anisotropy (FA) of white matter in 22q11DS patients with cognitive decline [n = 16; −18.34 (15.8) VIQ percentile points over 6.80 (2.39) years] to 22q11DS patients without cognitive decline [n = 18; 17.71 (20.17) VIQ percentile points over 5.27 (2.03) years] by applying an atlas-based approach to diffusion-weighted imaging data.
FA was significantly increased (p < 0.05, FDR) in 22q11DS patients with a cognitive decline in the bilateral superior longitudinal fasciculus, the bilateral cingulum bundle, all subcomponents of the left internal capsule and the left superior frontal-occipital fasciculus as compared with 22q11DS patients without cognitive decline.
Within 22q11DS, the early cognitive decline is associated with microstructural differences in white matter. At the mean age of 17.8 years, these changes are reflected in increased FA in several tracts. We hypothesize that similar brain alterations associated with cognitive decline take place early in the trajectory of schizophrenia.
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