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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.
Identifying factors that influence the functional outcome is an important goal in schizophrenia research. The 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) is a unique genetic model with high risk (20–25%) for schizophrenia. This study aimed to identify potentially targetable domains of neurocognitive functioning associated with functional outcome in adults with 22q11DS.
We used comprehensive neurocognitive test data available for 99 adults with 22q11DS (n = 43 with schizophrenia) and principal component analysis to derive four domains of neurocognition (Verbal Memory, Visual and Logical Memory, Motor Performance, and Executive Performance). We then investigated the association of these neurocognitive domains with adaptive functioning using Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales data and a linear regression model that accounted for the effects of schizophrenia status and overall intellectual level.
The regression model explained 46.8% of the variance in functional outcome (p < 0.0001). Executive Performance was significantly associated with functional outcome (p = 0.048). Age and schizophrenia were also significant factors. The effects of Executive Performance on functioning did not significantly differ between those with and without psychotic illness.
The findings provide the impetus for further studies to examine the potential of directed (early) interventions targeting Executive Performance to improve long-term adaptive functional outcome in individuals with, or at high risk for, schizophrenia. Moreover, the neurocognitive test profiles may benefit caregivers and clinicians by providing insight into the relative strengths and weaknesses of individuals with 22q11DS, with and without psychotic illness.
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.
People with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (velo-cardio-facial syndrome) have
a 30-fold risk of developing schizophrenia. In the general population the
schizophrenia phenotype includes a cognitive deficit and a decline in
academic performance preceding the first episode of psychosis in a
subgroup of patients. Findings of cross-sectional studies suggest that
cognitive abilities may decline over time in some children with 22q11.2
deletion syndrome. If confirmed longitudinally, this could indicate that
one or more genes within 22q11.2 are involved in cognitive decline.
To assess longitudinally the change in IQ scores in children with 22q11.2
Sixty-nine children with the syndrome were cognitively assessed two or
three times at set ages 5.5 years, 7.5 years and 9.5 years.
A mean significant decline of 9.7 Full Scale IQ points was found between
ages 5.5 years and 9.5 years. In addition to the overall relative decline
that occurred when results were scored according to age-specific IQ
norms, in 10 out of a group of 29 children an absolute decrease in
cognitive raw scores was found between ages 7.5 years and 9.5 years. The
decline was not associated with a change in behavioural measures.
The finding of cognitive decline can be only partly explained as the
result of ‘growing into deficit’; about a third of 29 children showed an
absolute loss of cognitive faculties. The results underline the
importance of early psychiatric screening in this population and indicate
that further study of the genes at the 22q11.2 locus may be relevant to
understanding the genetic basis of early cognitive deterioration.
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