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Basic Self disturbances (BSD), including changes of the 'pre-reflexive' sense of self and the loss first-person perspective, are characteristic of the schizophrenic spectrum disorders and highly prevalent in subjects at 'ultra high risk' for psychosis (UHR). The current literature indicates that cortical midline structures (CMS) may be implicated in the neurobiological substrates of the 'basic self' in healthy controls.
Neuroanatomical investigation of BSD in a UHR sample
To test the hypotheses :(i) UHR subjects have higher 'Examination of Anomalous Self Experience, EASE' scores as compared to controls, (ii) UHR subjects have neuroanatomical alterations as compared to controls in CMS, (iii) within UHR subjects, EASE scores are directly related to structural CMS alterations.
32 HR subjects (27 antipsychotics-naïve) and 17 healthy controls (HC) were assessed with the 57-items semi-structured EASE interview. Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM) was conducted in the same subjects, with a-priori Region of Interests (ROIs) defined in the CMS (anterior/posterior cingulate and medial-prefrontal cortex).
Despite high variability in the HR group, the overall EASE score was higher (t-test >0.01, Cohen's d =2.91) in HR (mean=30.15, SD=16.46) as compared to HC group (mean=1.79, SD=2.83). UHR subjects had gray matter reduction in CMS as compared to HC (p>0.05 FWE-corrected). Across the whole sample, lower gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate was correlated with higher EASE scores (p>0.05).
This study provides preliminary evidence that gray matter reductions in the CMS are correlated with BSD in UHR people.
Evidence has been accumulating regarding alterations in components of the endocannabinoid system in patients with psychosis. Of all the putative risk factors associated with psychosis, being at clinical high-risk for psychosis (CHR) has the strongest association with the onset of psychosis, and exposure to childhood trauma has been linked to an increased risk of development of psychotic disorder. We aimed to investigate whether being at-risk for psychosis and exposure to childhood trauma were associated with altered endocannabinoid levels.
We compared 33 CHR participants with 58 healthy controls (HC) and collected information about previous exposure to childhood trauma as well as plasma samples to analyse endocannabinoid levels.
Individuals with both CHR and experience of childhood trauma had higher N-palmitoylethanolamine (p < 0.001) and anandamide (p < 0.001) levels in peripheral blood compared to HC and those with no childhood trauma. There was also a significant correlation between N-palmitoylethanolamine levels and symptoms as well as childhood trauma.
Our results suggest an association between CHR and/or childhood maltreatment and elevated endocannabinoid levels in peripheral blood, with a greater alteration in those with both CHR status and history of childhood maltreatment compared to those with either of those risks alone. Furthermore, endocannabinoid levels increased linearly with the number of risk factors and elevated endocannabinoid levels correlated with the severity of CHR symptoms and extent of childhood maltreatment. Further studies in larger cohorts, employing longitudinal designs are needed to confirm these findings and delineate the precise role of endocannabinoid alterations in the pathophysiology of psychosis.
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