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Obesity is highly prevalent and disabling, especially in individuals with severe mental illness including bipolar disorders (BD). The brain is a target organ for both obesity and BD. Yet, we do not understand how cortical brain alterations in BD and obesity interact.
We obtained body mass index (BMI) and MRI-derived regional cortical thickness, surface area from 1231 BD and 1601 control individuals from 13 countries within the ENIGMA-BD Working Group. We jointly modeled the statistical effects of BD and BMI on brain structure using mixed effects and tested for interaction and mediation. We also investigated the impact of medications on the BMI-related associations.
BMI and BD additively impacted the structure of many of the same brain regions. Both BMI and BD were negatively associated with cortical thickness, but not surface area. In most regions the number of jointly used psychiatric medication classes remained associated with lower cortical thickness when controlling for BMI. In a single region, fusiform gyrus, about a third of the negative association between number of jointly used psychiatric medications and cortical thickness was mediated by association between the number of medications and higher BMI.
We confirmed consistent associations between higher BMI and lower cortical thickness, but not surface area, across the cerebral mantle, in regions which were also associated with BD. Higher BMI in people with BD indicated more pronounced brain alterations. BMI is important for understanding the neuroanatomical changes in BD and the effects of psychiatric medications on the brain.
The balance between neurotoxic and neuroprotective effects of kynurenine pathway (KP) components has been recently proposed as a key element in the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder (BD) and related mood episodes. This comprehensive overview explored the link of KP with symptom severity and other clinical features of BD.
We searched Medline, Embase, and PsycInfo electronic databases for studies assessing the association of peripheral and/or central concentrations of KP metabolites with putative clinical features, including symptom severity and other clinical domains in BD.
We included the findings of 13 observational studies investigating the possible variations of KP metabolites according to symptom severity, psychotic features, suicidal behaviors, and sleep disturbances in BD. Studies testing the relationship between KP metabolites and depression severity generated mixed and inconsistent findings. No statistically significant correlations with manic symptoms were found. Moreover, heterogeneous variations of the KP across different clinical domains were shown. Few available studies found (a) higher levels of cerebrospinal fluid kynurenic acid and lower of plasma quinolinic acid in BD with psychotic features, (b) lower central and peripheral picolinic acid levels in BD with suicide attempts, and (c) no significant correlations between KP metabolites and BD-related sleep disturbances.
An imbalance of KP metabolism toward the neurotoxic branches is likely to occur in people with BD, though evidence on variations according to specific clinical features of BD is less clear. Additional research is needed to clarify the role of KP in the etiopathogenesis of BD and related clinical features.
An inflammation-induced imbalance in the kynurenine pathway (KP) has been reported in major depressive disorder but the utility of these metabolites as predictive or therapeutic biomarkers of behavioral activation (BA) therapy is unknown.
Serum samples were provided by 56 depressed individuals before BA therapy and 29 of these individuals also provided samples after 10 weeks of therapy to measure cytokines and KP metabolites. The PROMIS Depression Scale (PROMIS-D) and the Sheehan Disability Scale were administered weekly and the Beck depression inventory was administered pre- and post-therapy. Data were analyzed with linear mixed-effect, general linear, and logistic regression models. The primary outcome for the biomarker analyses was the ratio of kynurenic acid to quinolinic acid (KynA/QA).
BA decreased depression and disability scores (p's < 0.001, Cohen's d's > 0.5). KynA/QA significantly increased at post-therapy relative to baseline (p < 0.001, d = 2.2), an effect driven by a decrease in QA post-therapy (p < 0.001, uncorrected, d = 3.39). A trend towards a decrease in the ratio of kynurenine to tryptophan (KYN/TRP) was also observed (p = 0.054, uncorrected, d = 0.78). Neither the change in KynA/QA, nor baseline KynA/QA were associated with response to BA therapy.
The current findings together with previous research show that electronconvulsive therapy, escitalopram, and ketamine decrease concentrations of the neurotoxin, QA, raise the possibility that a common therapeutic mechanism underlies diverse forms of anti-depressant treatment but future controlled studies are needed to test this hypothesis.
Depression can impair the immunogenicity of vaccine administration in adults. Whereas many vaccinations are administered in childhood, it is not known whether adolescent or adult onset depression is associated with impairments in the maintenance of protection of childhood vaccines. This study tested the hypothesis that individuals with adolescent or adult onset mood disorders would display compromised immunity to measles, a target of childhood vaccination.
IgG antibodies to measles were quantified using a solid phase immunoassay in volunteers with bipolar disorder (BD, n = 64, mean age of onset = 16.6 ± 5.6), currently depressed individuals with major depressive disorder (cMDD, n = 85, mean age of onset = 17.9 ± 7.0), remitted individuals with a history of MDD (rMDD, n = 82, mean age of onset = 19.2 ± 8.6), and non-depressed comparison controls (HC, n = 202), all born after the introduction of the measles vaccine in the USA in 1963.
Relative to HC, both the cMDD group (p = 0.021, adjusted odds ratios (OR) = 0.47, confidence interval (CI) = 0.24–0.90), and the rMDD group (p = 0.038, adjusted OR = 0.50, CI = 0.26–0.97) were less likely to test seropositive for measles. Compared with unmedicated MDD participants, currently medicated MDD participants had a longer lifetime duration of illness and were less likely to test seropositive for measles.
Individuals with adolescent or adult onset MDD are less likely to test seropositive for measles. Because lower IgG titers are associated with increased risk of measles infection, MDD may increase the risk and severity of infection possibly because of impaired maintenance of vaccine-related protection from measles.
Behavioral phenotypes are generally complex, reflecting the action of multiple different genes. Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that key gene variants can alter activity within specific neuronal circuits and, therefore, influence particular cognitive-affective phenomena. One example is the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene, which has a common variant at codon 158. Those with valine (Val158) alleles have increased greater COMT activity and lower prefrontal extracellular dopamine compared with those with the methionine (Met158) substitution. Val158 alleles may be associated with an advantage in the processing of aversive stimuli (warrior strategy), while Met158 alleles may be associated with an advantage in memory and attention tasks (worrier strategy). Under conditions of increased dopamine release (eg, stress), individuals with Val158 alleles may have improved dopaminergic transmission and better performance. while individuals with Met158 alleles may have less efficient neurotransmission and worse performance. Some evidence suggests that Val158 alleles are associated with schizophrenia, while Met158 alleles are associated with anxiety.
While monoaminergic hypotheses of psychopathology remain popular, there has been growing interest in the role of neurotrophins in neuropsychiatric disorders. Basic laboratory work has documented the importance of neurotrophins in neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity, and a range of clinical studies has provided analogous evidence of their role in neuropathology. Work on gene variants in brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and associated changes in structural and function brain imaging, have further contributed to our understanding of this area. Much remains to be done to delineate fully the relevant mechanisms by which brain-derived neurotrophic factor and other neurotrophins contribute to psychopathology, and to develop targeted therapeutic interventions. Nevertheless, the neurotrophin hypothesis has already given impetus to a range of valuable research.
Bipolar disorder is clinically characterized by fluctuating affect, and neuropsychologically by impairment in executive functions. Such phenomena are consistent with the centrality of emotional dysregulation and impulsivity to bipolar disorder. They are also consistent with a key role for prefrontal-subcortical (striatal-thalamic) and associated limbic circuitry in its mediation. Furthermore, there is growing data on the cellular mechanisms contributing to neuronal vulnerability in this mediating circuitry.
The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) ventral to the genu of the corpus callosum has been implicated in the modulation of emotional behavior on the basis of neuroimaging studies in humans and lesion analyses in experimental animals. In a combined positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging study of mood disorders, we demonstrated that the mean gray matter volume of this “subgenual” ACC (sgACC) cortex is abnormally reduced in subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder, irrespective of mood state. Neuropathological assessments of sgACC tissue acquired postmortem from subjects with MDD or bipolar disorder confirmed the decrement in gray matter volume, and revealed that this abnormality was associated with a reduction in glia, with no equivalent loss of neurons. In positron emission tomography studies, the metabolic activity was elevated in this region in the depressed relative to the remitted phases of the same MDD subjects, and effective antidepressant treatment was associated with a reduction in sgACC activity. Other laboratories replicated and extended these findings, and the clinical importance of this treatment effect was underscored by a study showing that deep brain stimulation of the sgACC ameliorates depressive symptoms in treatment-resistant MDD. This article discusses the functional significance of these findings within the context of the preclinical literature that implicates the putative homologue of this region in the regulation of emotional behavior and stress response. In experimental animals, this region participates in an extended “visceromotor network” of structures that modulates autonomic/neuroendocrine responses and neurotransmitter transmission during the neural processing of reward, fear, and stress. These data thus hold important implications for the development of neural models of depression that can account for the abnormal motivational, neuroendocrine, autonomic, and emotional manifestations evident in human mood disorders.
The presence of schizotypal personality traits in some people with
bipolar disorder, together with reports of greater cognitive dysfunction
in patients with a history of psychotic features compared with patients
without such a history, raises questions about the nosological
relationship between bipolar disorder with psychotic features and bipolar
disorder without psychotic features.
To test the impact of a history of DSM–IV-defined psychosis on the
neuropsychological status of participants with bipolar disorder while
statistically controlling for confounding factors such as mood,
medication, alcohol misuse/dependence and childhood abuse, and to
evaluate the impact of schizotypal personality traits (and thus potential
vulnerability to psychotic illness) on the cognitive performance of
people with bipolar disorder and their healthy relatives.
Neuropsychological data were obtained for 25 participants with type I
bipolar disorder and a history of psychosis, 24 with type I bipolar
disorder but no history of psychosis and 61 unaffected relatives.
Schizotypal traits were measured with the Schizotypal Personality Scale
(STA). Childhood trauma was measured with the Childhood Trauma
The group with a history of psychosis performed significantly worse than
the healthy relatives on measures of verbal working memory, cognitive
flexibility and declarative memory. Nevertheless, the two bipolar
disorder groups did not differ significantly from each other on any
cognitive measure. Scores on the STA were negatively associated with
verbal working and declarative memory, but positively associated with
visual recall memory.
‘Psychotic’ and ‘non-psychotic’ subtypes of bipolar disorder may lie on a
nosological continuum that is most clearly defined by verbal memory