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Social and environmental factors such as poverty or violence modulate the risk and course of schizophrenia. However, how they affect the brain in patients with psychosis remains unclear.
We studied how environmental factors are related to brain structure in patients with schizophrenia and controls in Latin America, where these factors are large and unequally distributed.
This is a multicentre study of magnetic resonance imaging in patients with schizophrenia and controls from six Latin American cities. Total and voxel-level grey matter volumes, and their relationship with neighbourhood characteristics such as average income and homicide rates, were analysed with a general linear model.
A total of 334 patients with schizophrenia and 262 controls were included. Income was differentially related to total grey matter volume in both groups (P = 0.006). Controls showed a positive correlation between total grey matter volume and income (R = 0.14, P = 0.02). Surprisingly, this relationship was not present in patients with schizophrenia (R = −0.076, P = 0.17). Voxel-level analysis confirmed that this interaction was widespread across the cortex. After adjusting for global brain changes, income was positively related to prefrontal cortex volumes only in controls. Conversely, the hippocampus in patients with schizophrenia, but not in controls, was relatively larger in affluent environments. There was no significant correlation between environmental violence and brain structure.
Our results highlight the interplay between environment, particularly poverty, and individual characteristics in psychosis. This is particularly important for harsh environments such as low- and middle-income countries, where potentially less brain vulnerability (less grey matter loss) is sufficient to become unwell in adverse (poor) environments.
Two common approaches to identify subgroups of patients with bipolar disorder are clustering methodology (mixture analysis) based on the age of onset, and a birth cohort analysis. This study investigates if a birth cohort effect will influence the results of clustering on the age of onset, using a large, international database.
The database includes 4037 patients with a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder, previously collected at 36 collection sites in 23 countries. Generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used to adjust the data for country median age, and in some models, birth cohort. Model-based clustering (mixture analysis) was then performed on the age of onset data using the residuals. Clinical variables in subgroups were compared.
There was a strong birth cohort effect. Without adjusting for the birth cohort, three subgroups were found by clustering. After adjusting for the birth cohort or when considering only those born after 1959, two subgroups were found. With results of either two or three subgroups, the youngest subgroup was more likely to have a family history of mood disorders and a first episode with depressed polarity. However, without adjusting for birth cohort (three subgroups), family history and polarity of the first episode could not be distinguished between the middle and oldest subgroups.
These results using international data confirm prior findings using single country data, that there are subgroups of bipolar I disorder based on the age of onset, and that there is a birth cohort effect. Including the birth cohort adjustment altered the number and characteristics of subgroups detected when clustering by age of onset. Further investigation is needed to determine if combining both approaches will identify subgroups that are more useful for research.
Disturbed sleep and activity are prominent features of bipolar disorder type I (BP-I). However, the relationship of sleep and activity characteristics to brain structure and behavior in euthymic BP-I patients and their non-BP-I relatives is unknown. Additionally, underlying genetic relationships between these traits have not been investigated.
Relationships between sleep and activity phenotypes, assessed using actigraphy, with structural neuroimaging (brain) and cognitive and temperament (behavior) phenotypes were investigated in 558 euthymic individuals from multi-generational pedigrees including at least one member with BP-I. Genetic correlations between actigraphy-brain and actigraphy-behavior associations were assessed, and bivariate linkage analysis was conducted for trait pairs with evidence of shared genetic influences.
More physical activity and longer awake time were significantly associated with increased brain volumes and cortical thickness, better performance on neurocognitive measures of long-term memory and executive function, and less extreme scores on measures of temperament (impulsivity, cyclothymia). These associations did not differ between BP-I patients and their non-BP-I relatives. For nine activity-brain or activity-behavior pairs there was evidence for shared genetic influence (genetic correlations); of these pairs, a suggestive bivariate quantitative trait locus on chromosome 7 for wake duration and verbal working memory was identified.
Our findings indicate that increased physical activity and more adequate sleep are associated with increased brain size, better cognitive function and more stable temperament in BP-I patients and their non-BP-I relatives. Additionally, we found evidence for pleiotropy of several actigraphy-behavior and actigraphy-brain phenotypes, suggesting a shared genetic basis for these traits.
Positive symptoms are a useful predictor of aggression in schizophrenia. Although a similar pattern of abnormal brain structures related to both positive symptoms and aggression has been reported, this observation has not yet been confirmed in a single sample.
To study the association between positive symptoms and aggression in schizophrenia on a neurobiological level, a prospective meta-analytic approach was employed to analyze harmonized structural neuroimaging data from 10 research centers worldwide. We analyzed brain MRI scans from 902 individuals with a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia and 952 healthy controls.
The result identified a widespread cortical thickness reduction in schizophrenia compared to their controls. Two separate meta-regression analyses revealed that a common pattern of reduced cortical gray matter thickness within the left lateral temporal lobe and right midcingulate cortex was significantly associated with both positive symptoms and aggression.
These findings suggested that positive symptoms such as formal thought disorder and auditory misperception, combined with cognitive impairments reflecting difficulties in deploying an adaptive control toward perceived threats, could escalate the likelihood of aggression in schizophrenia.
Predicting breed-specific environmental suitability has been problematic in livestock production. Native breeds have low productivity but are thought to be more robust to perform under local conditions than exotic breeds. Attempts to introduce genetically improved exotic breeds are generally unsuccessful, mainly due to the antagonistic environmental conditions. Knowledge of the environmental conditions that are shaping the breed would be needed to determine its suitability to different locations. Here, we present a methodology to predict the suitability of breeds for different agro-ecological zones using Geographic Information Systems tools and predictive habitat distribution models. This methodology was tested on the current distribution of two introduced chicken breeds in Ethiopia: the Koekoek, originally from South Africa, and the Fayoumi, originally from Egypt. Cross-validation results show this methodology to be effective in predicting breed suitability for specific environmental conditions. Furthermore, the model predicts suitable areas of the country where the breeds could be introduced. The specific climatic parameters that explained the potential distribution of each of the breeds were similar to the environment from which the breeds originated. This novel methodology finds application in livestock programs, allowing for a more informed decision when designing breeding programs and introduction programs, and increases our understanding of the role of the environment in livestock productivity.
Roundup is a glyphosate-based herbicide (GBH) widely used in agriculture and may cause toxic effects in non-target organisms. Model organisms, as zebrafish, and analysis of gene expression by reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) could be used to better understand the Roundup toxicity. A prerequisite for RT-qPCR is the availability of appropriate reference genes; however, they have not been described for Roundup-exposed fish. The aim of this study was to evaluate the expression stability of six reference genes (rpl8, β-act, gapdh, b2m, ef1α, hprt1) and one expressed repetitive element (hatn10) in organs of males (brain, gill, testis) and females (ovary) of zebrafish exposed to Roundup WG at three concentrations (0.065, 0.65 and 6.5 mg N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine/l) for 7 days. Genes were ranked by geNorm, NormFinder, BestKeeper, Delta Ct and RefFinder, and their best combinations were determined by geNorm and NormFinder programs. The two most stable ranked genes were specific to each organ: gill (β-act; rpl8); brain (rpl8; β-act); testis (ef1α; gapdh); and ovary (rpl8; hprt1). The cat transcript level was used to evaluate the effect of normalization with these reference genes. These are the first suitable reference genes described for the analysis of gene expression in organs of Roundup-exposed zebrafish, and will allow investigations of the molecular mechanisms of Roundup toxicity.
From the local level to international politics, deliberation helps to increase mutual understanding and trust, in order to arrive at political decisions of high epistemic value and legitimacy. This book gives deliberation a dynamic dimension, analysing how levels of deliberation rise and fall in group discussions, and introducing the concept of 'deliberative transformative moments' and how they can be applied to deeply divided societies, where deliberation is most needed but also most difficult to work. Discussions between ex-guerrillas and ex-paramilitaries in Colombia, Serbs and Bosnjaks in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and police officers and locals in Brazilian favelas are used as case studies, with participants addressing how peace can be attained in their countries. Allowing access to the records and transcripts of the discussions opens an opportunity for practitioners of conflict resolution to apply this research to their work in trouble spots of the world, creating a link between the theory and practice of deliberation.