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We make a distinction between centralized, decentralized, and distributed payment mechanisms. A centralized payment mechanism processes a transaction using a trusted third party. A decentralized payment mechanism processes a transaction between the parties to the transaction. A distributed payment mechanism relies on the network of users to process a transaction on a shared ledger. We maintain that bitcoin is neither a centralized nor a decentralized payment mechanism. It is, instead, a distributed payment mechanism. We then consider decentralized and centralized aspects of the broader bitcoin payment space.
Depression is a prevalent and impairing condition. Behavioral activation (BA) is a parsimonious, cost-effective, and easily disseminated psychological intervention for depression. The current meta-analysis expands on the existing literature supporting the efficacy of BA for depression by examining the effects of BA on additional relevant outcomes for patients with depression, namely the reduction in anxiety symptoms and increase in activation.
Randomized controlled trials of BA for depression compared to active and inactive control were identified via a systematic review. Effect sizes using Hedges's g were calculated for each outcome compared to both active and inactive control using random effects models. Subgroup analyses were used to examine the inclusion of a discussion of values as a moderator of depression symptom outcome in BA.
Twenty-eight studies were included. Meta-analyses of symptom change between groups from baseline-to-post intervention indicated that BA outperformed inactive control conditions for improvements in depression (g = 0.83), anxiety (g = 0.37), and activation (g = 0.64). The difference between BA and active control conditions was not significant for improvements in depression (g = 0.15), anxiety (g = 0.03), and activation (g = 0.04). There was no evidence for a discussion of values augmenting BA efficacy. Study quality was generally low, and there was evidence of publication bias.
In addition to improving depression, BA shows efficacy for reducing symptoms of anxiety and increasing activation. BA may not offer better outcomes relative to other active interventions. There is room for improvement in the quality of research in this area.
The aim of this paper was to provide a systematic review and update on the pharmacotherapy of social anxiety disorder (SAD), including the efficacy and tolerability of these agents, the ranking of interventions, and the grading of results by quality of evidence.
The Common Mental Disorder Controlled Trial Register and two trial registries were searched for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing any pharmacological intervention or placebo in the treatment of SAD. We performed a standard pairwise meta-analysis using a random effects model and carried out a network meta-analysis (NMA) using the statistical package, R. Quality of evidence was also assessed.
We included 67 RCTs in the review and 21 to 45 interventions in the NMA. Paroxetine was most effective in the reduction of symptom severity as compared to placebo. Superior response to treatment was also observed for paroxetine, brofaromine, bromazepam, clonazepam, escitalopram, fluvoxamine, phenelzine, and sertraline. Higher dropout rates were found for fluvoxamine. Brofaromine, escitalopram, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, pregabalin, sertraline, and venlafaxine performed worse in comparison to placebo for the outcome of dropouts due to adverse events. Olanzapine yielded a relatively high rank for treatment efficacy and buspirone the worse rank for dropouts due to any cause.
The differences between drugs and placebo were small, apart from a significant reduction in symptom severity and response for paroxetine. We suggest paroxetine as a first-line treatment of SAD, with the consideration of future research on the drug olanzapine as well as brofaromine, bromazepam, clonazepam, escitalopram, fluvoxamine, phenelzine, and sertraline because we observed a response to treatment.
Tuberous sclerosis complex is a rare genetic disorder leading to the growth of hamartomas in multiple organs, including cardiac rhabdomyomas. Children with symptomatic cardiac rhabdomyoma require frequent admissions to intensive care units, have major complications, namely, arrhythmias, cardiac outflow tract obstruction and heart failure, affecting the quality of life and taking on high healthcare cost. Currently, there is no standard pharmacological treatment for this condition, and the management includes a conservative approach and supportive care. Everolimus has shown positive effects on subependymal giant cell astrocytomas, renal angiomyolipoma and refractory seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex. However, evidence supporting efficacy in symptomatic cardiac rhabdomyoma is limited to case reports. The ORACLE trial is the first randomised clinical trial assessing the efficacy of everolimus as a specific therapy for symptomatic cardiac rhabdomyoma.
ORACLE is a phase II, prospective, randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicentre protocol trial. A total of 40 children with symptomatic cardiac rhabdomyoma secondary to tuberous sclerosis complex will be randomised to receive oral everolimus or placebo for 3 months. The primary outcome is 50% or more reduction in the tumour size related to baseline. As secondary outcomes we include the presence of arrhythmias, pericardial effusion, intracardiac obstruction, adverse events, progression of tumour reduction and effect on heart failure.
ORACLE protocol addresses a relevant unmet need in children with tuberous sclerosis complex and cardiac rhabdomyoma. The results of the trial will potentially support the first evidence-based therapy for this condition.
To investigate the association of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and early neurodevelopment in the first 2 years of life, adjusting for maternal socio-demographic and psychosocial factors, in the Drakenstein Child Health Study (DCHS), a South African birth cohort study.
The DCHS comprises a population-based birth cohort of 1143 children, of which a subsample completed the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-III (BSID-III) at 6 (n = 260) and 24 months of age (n = 734). A subset of alcohol-exposed and -unexposed children was included in this analysis at age 6 (n = 52 exposed; n = 104 unexposed) and 24 months (n = 92 exposed; n = 184 unexposed). Multiple hierarchical regression was used to explore the associations of PAE with motor and language development.
PAE was significantly associated with decreased gross motor [odds ratio (OR) = 0.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.06–0.44, p = 0.001] or fine motor (OR = 0.16, 95% CI = 0.06–0.46, p = 0.001) functioning after adjusting for maternal socio-demographic and psychosocial factors at 6 months of age only. No significant effects were found in either receptive or expressive communication and cognitive outcomes at either time points.
PAE has potentially important consequences for motor development in the first 2 years of life, a period during which the most rapid growth and maturation occur. These findings highlight the importance of identifying high-risk families in order to provide preventive interventions, particularly in antenatal clinics and early intervention services.
Findings from animal studies indicate that the early gut bacteriome is a potential mechanism linking maternal prenatal stress with health trajectories in offspring. However, clinical studies are scarce and the associations of maternal psychological profiles with the early infant faecal bacteriome are unknown. This study aimed to investigate the associations of prenatal stressors and distress with early infant faecal bacterial profiles in a South African birth cohort study.
Associations between prenatal symptoms of depression, distress, intimate partner violence (IPV) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and faecal bacterial profiles were evaluated in meconium and subsequent stool specimens from 84 mothers and 101 infants at birth, and longitudinally from a subset of 69 and 36 infants at 4–12 and 20–28 weeks of age, respectively, in a South African birth cohort study.
Infants born to mothers that were exposed to high levels of IPV had significantly higher proportions of Citrobacter and three unclassified genera, all of which belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae detected at birth. Proportions of these Enterobacteriaceae remained significantly increased over time (birth to 20–28 weeks of life) in infants born to mothers with high levels of IPV exposure compared to infants from mothers with no/low IPV exposure. Infants born to mothers exposed to IPV also had higher proportions of the genus Weissella at 4–12 weeks compared to infants from mothers with no/low IPV exposure. Faecal specimens from mothers exposed to IPV had higher proportions of the family Lactobacillaceae and lower proportions of Peptostreptococcaceae at birth. Maternal psychological distress was associated with decreased proportions of the family Veillonellaceae in infants at 20–28 weeks and a slower decline in Gammaproteobacteria over time. No changes in beta diversity were apparent for maternal or infant faecal bacterial profiles in relation to any of the prenatal measures for psychological adversities.
Maternal lifetime IPV and antenatal psychological distress are associated with altered bacterial profiles in infant and maternal faecal bacteria. These findings may provide insights in the involvement of the gut bacteria linking maternal psychological adversity and the maturing infant brain.
Evidence from high-income countries suggests that childhood trauma is associated with schizophrenia. Studies of childhood trauma and schizophrenia in low and middle income (LMIC) countries are limited. This study examined the prevalence of childhood traumatic experiences among cases and controls and the relationship between specific and cumulative childhood traumatic experiences and schizophrenia in a sample in South Africa.
Data were from the Genomics of Schizophrenia in the South African Xhosa people study. Cases with schizophrenia and matched controls were recruited from provincial hospitals and clinics in the Western and Eastern Cape regions in South Africa. Childhood traumatic experiences were measured using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). Adjusted logistic regression models estimated associations between individual and cumulative childhood traumatic experiences and schizophrenia.
Traumatic experiences were more prevalent among cases than controls. The odds of schizophrenia were 2.44 times higher among those who experienced any trauma than those who reported no traumatic experiences (95% CI 1.77–3.37). The odds of schizophrenia were elevated among those who experienced physical/emotional abuse (OR 1.59, CI 1.28–1.97), neglect (OR 1.39, CI 1.16–1.68), and sexual abuse (OR 1.22, CI 1.03–1.45) compared to those who did not. Cumulative physical/emotional abuse and neglect experiences increased the odds of schizophrenia as a dose–response relationship.
Childhood trauma is common in this population. Among many other benefits, interventions to prevent childhood trauma may contribute to a decreasing occurrence of schizophrenia.
To examine the association of psychological distress with serum C-reactive protein (CRP) in a South African cohort.
Data were analysed on individuals aged ≥15 years from the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES) of 2012. Psychological distress was evaluated using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale. Linear regression models assessed the association of psychological distress with serum CRP, adjusting for possible confounding factors.
The analytic sample comprised n = 3944 individuals (mean age = 40 and sex = 36% males). Psychological distress was significantly associated with increased serum CRP levels (B = 0.31 and p = 0.001). This association was no longer significant after adjusting for demographic variables, lifestyle factors, cardiac disease, diabetes, hypertension, trauma and anti-inflammatory medication use (B = 0.15 and p = 0.062).
Psychological distress was associated with elevated levels of CRP among South African adults. However, the association was confounded by a range of factors, with demographic variables (age, sex and population group) having the largest confounding effect. These findings indicate that CRP is not a useful biomarker of psychological distress, and that additional work is needed on the underlying psychobiology of psychological distress.
Bipolar disorder (BD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are prevalent, comorbid, and disabling conditions, often characterized by early onset and chronic course. When comorbid, OCD and BD can determine a more pernicious course of illness, posing therapeutic challenges for clinicians. Available reports on prevalence and clinical characteristics of comorbidity between BD and OCD showed mixed results, likely depending on the primary diagnosis of analyzed samples.
We assessed prevalence and clinical characteristics of BD comorbidity in a large international sample of patients with primary OCD (n = 401), through the International College of Obsessive–Compulsive Spectrum Disorders (ICOCS) snapshot database, by comparing OCD subjects with vs without BD comorbidity.
Among primary OCD patients, 6.2% showed comorbidity with BD. OCD patients with vs without BD comorbidity more frequently had a previous hospitalization (p < 0.001) and current augmentation therapies (p < 0.001). They also showed greater severity of OCD (p < 0.001), as measured by the Yale–Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS).
These findings from a large international sample indicate that approximately 1 out of 16 patients with primary OCD may additionally have BD comorbidity along with other specific clinical characteristics, including more frequent previous hospitalizations, more complex therapeutic regimens, and a greater severity of OCD. Prospective international studies are needed to confirm our findings.
Childhood maltreatment (CM) plays an important role in the development of major depressive disorder (MDD). The aim of this study was to examine whether CM severity and type are associated with MDD-related brain alterations, and how they interact with sex and age.
Within the ENIGMA-MDD network, severity and subtypes of CM using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire were assessed and structural magnetic resonance imaging data from patients with MDD and healthy controls were analyzed in a mega-analysis comprising a total of 3872 participants aged between 13 and 89 years. Cortical thickness and surface area were extracted at each site using FreeSurfer.
CM severity was associated with reduced cortical thickness in the banks of the superior temporal sulcus and supramarginal gyrus as well as with reduced surface area of the middle temporal lobe. Participants reporting both childhood neglect and abuse had a lower cortical thickness in the inferior parietal lobe, middle temporal lobe, and precuneus compared to participants not exposed to CM. In males only, regardless of diagnosis, CM severity was associated with higher cortical thickness of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex. Finally, a significant interaction between CM and age in predicting thickness was seen across several prefrontal, temporal, and temporo-parietal regions.
Severity and type of CM may impact cortical thickness and surface area. Importantly, CM may influence age-dependent brain maturation, particularly in regions related to the default mode network, perception, and theory of mind.
Whereas genetic susceptibility increases the risk for major depressive disorder (MDD), non-genetic protective factors may mitigate this risk. In a large-scale prospective study of US Army soldiers, we examined whether trait resilience and/or unit cohesion could protect against the onset of MDD following combat deployment, even in soldiers at high polygenic risk.
Data were analyzed from 3079 soldiers of European ancestry assessed before and after their deployment to Afghanistan. Incident MDD was defined as no MDD episode at pre-deployment, followed by a MDD episode following deployment. Polygenic risk scores were constructed from a large-scale genome-wide association study of major depression. We first examined the main effects of the MDD PRS and each protective factor on incident MDD. We then tested the effects of each protective factor on incident MDD across strata of polygenic risk.
Polygenic risk showed a dose–response relationship to depression, such that soldiers at high polygenic risk had greatest odds for incident MDD. Both unit cohesion and trait resilience were prospectively associated with reduced risk for incident MDD. Notably, the protective effect of unit cohesion persisted even in soldiers at highest polygenic risk.
Polygenic risk was associated with new-onset MDD in deployed soldiers. However, unit cohesion – an index of perceived support and morale – was protective against incident MDD even among those at highest genetic risk, and may represent a potent target for promoting resilience in vulnerable soldiers. Findings illustrate the value of combining genomic and environmental data in a prospective design to identify robust protective factors for mental health.
Background: Evidence suggests that cannabis use may be associated with suicidality in adolescence. Nevertheless, very few studies have assessed this association in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In this cross-sectional survey, we investigated the association of cannabis use and suicidal attempts in adolescents from 21 LMICs, adjusting for potential confounders.
Method: Data from the Global school-based Student Health Survey was analyzed in 86,254 adolescents from 21 countries [mean (SD) age = 13.7 (0.9) years; 49.0% girls]. Suicide attempts during past year and cannabis during past month and lifetime were assessed. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were conducted.
Results: The overall prevalence of past 30-day cannabis use was 2.8% and the age-sex adjusted prevalence varied from 0.5% (Laos) to 37.6% (Samoa), while the overall prevalence of lifetime cannabis use was 3.9% (range 0.5%–44.9%). The overall prevalence of suicide attempts during the past year was 10.5%. Following multivariable adjustment to potential confounding variables, past 30-day cannabis use was significantly associated with suicide attempts (OR = 2.03; 95% CI: 1.42–2.91). Lifetime cannabis use was also independently associated with suicide attempts (OR = 2.30; 95% CI: 1.74–3.04).
Conclusion: Our data indicate that cannabis use is associated with a greater likelihood for suicide attempts in adolescents living in LMICs. The causality of this association should be confirmed/refuted in prospective studies to further inform public health policies for suicide prevention in LMICs.