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Young adults who are not in employment, education, or training (NEET) are at risk of long-term economic disadvantage and social exclusion. Knowledge about risk factors for being NEET largely comes from cross-sectional studies of vulnerable individuals. Using data collected over a 10-year period, we examined adolescent predictors of being NEET in young adulthood.
We used data on 1938 participants from the Victorian Adolescent Health Cohort Study, a community-based longitudinal study of adolescents in Victoria, Australia. Associations between common mental disorders, disruptive behaviour, cannabis use and drinking behaviour in adolescence, and NEET status at two waves of follow-up in young adulthood (mean ages of 20.7 and 24.1 years) were investigated using logistic regression, with generalised estimating equations used to account for the repeated outcome measure.
Overall, 8.5% of the participants were NEET at age 20.7 years and 8.2% at 24.1 years. After adjusting for potential confounders, we found evidence of increased risk of being NEET among frequent adolescent cannabis users [adjusted odds ratio (ORadj) = 1.74; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.10–2.75] and those who reported repeated disruptive behaviours (ORadj = 1.71; 95% CI 1.15–2.55) or persistent common mental disorders in adolescence (ORadj = 1.60; 95% CI 1.07–2.40). Similar associations were present when participants with children were included in the same category as those in employment, education, or training.
Young people with an early onset of mental health and behavioural problems are at risk of failing to make the transition from school to employment. This finding reinforces the importance of integrated employment and mental health support programmes.
Previous neuroimaging studies indicate abnormalities in cortico-limbic circuitry in mood disorder. Here we employ prospective longitudinal voxel-based morphometry to examine the trajectory of these abnormalities during early stages of illness development.
Unaffected individuals (16–25 years) at high and low familial risk of mood disorder underwent structural brain imaging on two occasions 2 years apart. Further clinical assessment was conducted 2 years after the second scan (time 3). Clinical outcome data at time 3 was used to categorize individuals: (i) healthy controls (‘low risk’, n = 48); (ii) high-risk individuals who remained well (HR well, n = 53); and (iii) high-risk individuals who developed a major depressive disorder (HR MDD, n = 30). Groups were compared using longitudinal voxel-based morphometry. We also examined whether progress to illness was associated with changes in other potential risk markers (personality traits, symptoms scores and baseline measures of childhood trauma), and whether any changes in brain structure could be indexed using these measures.
Significant decreases in right amygdala grey matter were found in HR MDD v. controls (p = 0.001) and v. HR well (p = 0.005). This structural change was not related to measures of childhood trauma, symptom severity or measures of sub-diagnostic anxiety, neuroticism or extraversion, although cross-sectionally these measures significantly differentiated the groups at baseline.
These longitudinal findings implicate structural amygdala changes in the neurobiology of mood disorder. They also provide a potential biomarker for risk stratification capturing additional information beyond clinically ascertained measures.
Abnormalities of emotion-related brain circuitry, including cortico-thalamic-limbic regions underpin core symptoms of bipolar disorder (BD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). It is unclear whether these abnormalities relate to symptoms of the disorder, are present in unaffected relatives, or whether they can predict future illness.
The Bipolar Family Study (BFS) is a prospective longitudinal study that has examined individuals at familial risk of mood disorder and healthy controls on three occasions, 2 years apart. The current study concerns imaging data from the second assessment; 51 controls and 81 high-risk (HR) individuals performing an emotional memory task. The latter group was divided into 61 HR individuals who were well, and 20 who met diagnostic criteria for MDD. At the time of the third assessment a further 11 HR individuals (from the Well group) had developed MDD. The current analyses focused on (i) differences between groups based on diagnostic status at the time of the scan, and (ii) predictors of future illness, comparing the 11 HR individuals who became unwell after the second scanning assessment to those who remained well.
All groups demonstrated typical emotional modulation of memory and associated brain activations. For analysis (i) the HR MDD group demonstrated increased thalamic activation v. HR Well. (ii) HR Well individuals who subsequently became ill showed increased activation of thalamus, insula and anterior cingulate compared to those who remained well.
These findings suggest evidence for specific changes related to the presence of illness and evidence that changes in brain function in cortico-thalamic-limbic regions precede clinical illness.
The hippocampus plays a central role in memory formation. There is considerable evidence of abnormalities in hippocampal structure and function in schizophrenia, which may differentiate it from bipolar disorder. However, no previous studies have compared hippocampal activation in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder directly.
Fifteen patients with schizophrenia, 14 patients with bipolar disorder and 14 healthy comparison subjects took part in the study. Subjects performed a face–name pair memory task during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Differences in blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) activity were determined during encoding and retrieval of the face–name pairs.
The patient groups showed significant differences in hippocampal and prefrontal cortex (PFC) activation during face–name pair learning. During encoding, patients with schizophrenia showed decreased anterior hippocampal activation relative to subjects with bipolar disorder, whereas patients with bipolar disorder showed decreased dorsal PFC activation relative to patients with schizophrenia. During retrieval, patients with schizophrenia showed greater activation of the dorsal PFC than patients with bipolar disorder. Patients with schizophrenia also differed from healthy control subjects in the activation of several brain regions, showing impaired superior temporal cortex activation during encoding and greater dorsal PFC activation during retrieval. These effects were evident despite matched task performance.
Patients with schizophrenia showed deficits in hippocampal activation during a memory task relative to patients with bipolar disorder. The disorders were further distinguished by differences in PFC activation. The results demonstrate that these disorders can distinguished at a group level using non-invasive neuroimaging.
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