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Identification of endophenotypes can improve prevention, detection and development of new treatments. We therefore investigated whether aberrant affective cognition constitutes an endophenotype for affective disorders by being present in monozygotic (MZ) twins with unipolar or bipolar disorder in partial remission (i.e. affected) and their unaffected co-twins (i.e. high-risk) relative to twins with no family history of affective disorder (i.e. low-risk).
We conducted an assessor blind cross-sectional study from 2014 to 2017 of MZ twins using Danish population-based registers in recruitment. Twins attended one test session involving neurocognitive testing, clinical ratings and questionnaires. Main outcomes were attention to and recognition of emotional facial expressions, the memory of emotional self-referential words, emotion regulation and coping strategies.
Participants were 103 affected, 44 high-risk and 36 low-risk MZ twins. Groups were demographically well-balanced and showed comparable non-affective cognitive performance. We observed no aberrant affective cognition in affected and high-risk relative to low-risk twins. However, high-risk twins displayed attentional avoidance of emotional faces (ps ⩽ 0.009) and more use of task-oriented coping strategies (p = 0.01) compared with affected twins. In contrast did affected twins show more emotion-oriented coping than high- and low-risk twins (ps ⩽ 0.004).
Our findings provide no support of aberrant affective cognition as an endophenotype for affective disorders. High-risk twins’ attentional avoidance of emotional faces and greater use of task-oriented coping strategies may reflect compensatory mechanisms.
Negative bias and aberrant neural processing of emotional faces are trait-marks of depression but findings in healthy high-risk groups are conflicting.
Healthy middle-aged dizygotic twins (N = 42) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): 22 twins had a co-twin history of depression (high-risk) and 20 were without co-twin history of depression (low-risk). During fMRI, participants viewed fearful and happy faces while performing a gender discrimination task. After the scan, they were given a faces dot-probe task, a facial expression recognition task and questionnaires assessing mood, personality traits and coping.
Unexpectedly, high-risk twins showed reduced fear vigilance and lower recognition of fear and happiness relative to low-risk twins. During face processing in the scanner, high-risk twins displayed distinct negative functional coupling between the amygdala and ventral prefrontal cortex and pregenual anterior cingulate. This was accompanied by greater fear-specific fronto-temporal response and reduced fronto-occipital response to all emotional faces relative to baseline. The risk groups showed no differences in mood, subjective state or coping.
Less susceptibility to fearful faces and negative cortico-limbic coupling during emotional face processing may reflect neurocognitive compensatory mechanisms in middle-aged dizygotic twins who remain healthy despite their familial risk of depression.
Cognitive dysfunction in depression and bipolar disorder (BD) is insufficiently targeted by available treatments. Erythropoietin (EPO) increases neuroplasticity and may improve cognition in mood disorders, but the neuronal mechanisms of these effects are unknown. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study investigated the effects of EPO on neural circuitry activity during working memory (WM) performance.
Patients with treatment-resistant major depression, who were moderately depressed, or with BD in partial remission, were randomized to eight weekly infusions of EPO (40 000 IU) (N = 30) or saline (N = 26) in a double-blind, parallel-group design. Patients underwent fMRI, mood ratings and blood tests at baseline and week 14. During fMRI patients performed an n-back WM task.
EPO improved WM accuracy compared with saline (p = 0.045). Whole-brain analyses revealed that EPO increased WM load-related activity in the right superior frontal gyrus (SFG) compared with saline (p = 0.01). There was also enhanced WM load-related deactivation of the left hippocampus in EPO-treated compared to saline-treated patients (p = 0.03). Across the entire sample, baseline to follow-up changes in WM performance correlated positively with changes in WM-related SFG activity and negatively with hippocampal response (r = 0.28–0.30, p < 0.05). The effects of EPO were not associated with changes in mood or red blood cells (p ⩾0.08).
The present findings associate changes in WM-load related activity in the right SFG and left hippocampus with improved executive function in EPO-treated patients. Clinical trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov: NCT00916552.
Cognitive dysfunction is common in major depressive disorder (MDD) and a critical determinant of health outcome. Anhedonia is a criterion item toward the diagnosis of a major depressive episode (MDE) and a well-characterized domain in MDD. We sought to determine the extent to which variability in self-reported cognitive function correlates with anhedonia.
A post hoc analysis was conducted using data from (N=369) participants with a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)-defined diagnosis of MDD who were enrolled in the International Mood Disorders Collaborative Project (IMDCP) between January 2008 and July 2013. The IMDCP is a collaborative research platform at the Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, and the Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio. Measures of cognitive function, anhedonia, and depression severity were analyzed using linear regression equations.
A total of 369 adults with DSM-IV-TR–defined MDD were included in this analysis. Self-rated cognitive impairment [ie, as measured by the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS)] was significantly correlated with a proxy measure of anhedonia (r=0.131, p=0.012). Moreover, total depression symptom severity, as measured by the total Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) score, was also significantly correlated with self-rated measures of cognitive dysfunction (r=0.147, p=0.005). The association between anhedonia and self-rated cognitive dysfunction remained significant after adjusting for illness severity (r=0.162, p=0.007).
These preliminary results provide empirical data for the testable hypothesis that anhedonia and self-reported cognitive function in MDD are correlated yet dissociable domains. The foregoing observation supports the hypothesis of overlapping yet discrete neurobiological substrates for these domains.
The number of studies on electronic self-monitoring in affective disorder and other psychiatric disorders is increasing and indicates high patient acceptance and adherence. Nevertheless, the effect of electronic self-monitoring in patients with bipolar disorder has never been investigated in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). The objective of this trial was to investigate in a RCT whether the use of daily electronic self-monitoring using smartphones reduces depressive and manic symptoms in patients with bipolar disorder.
A total of 78 patients with bipolar disorder according to ICD-10 criteria, aged 18–60 years, and with 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17) and Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) scores ≤17 were randomized to the use of a smartphone for daily self-monitoring including a clinical feedback loop (the intervention group) or to the use of a smartphone for normal communicative purposes (the control group) for 6 months. The primary outcomes were differences in depressive and manic symptoms measured using HAMD-17 and YMRS, respectively, between the intervention and control groups.
Intention-to-treat analyses using linear mixed models showed no significant effects of daily self-monitoring using smartphones on depressive as well as manic symptoms. There was a tendency towards more sustained depressive symptoms in the intervention group (B = 2.02, 95% confidence interval −0.13 to 4.17, p = 0.066). Sub-group analysis among patients without mixed symptoms and patients with presence of depressive and manic symptoms showed significantly more depressive symptoms and fewer manic symptoms during the trial period in the intervention group.
These results highlight that electronic self-monitoring, although intuitive and appealing, needs critical consideration and further clarification before it is implemented as a clinical tool.
Negative cognitive bias and aberrant neural processing of emotional faces are trait-marks of depression. Yet it is unclear whether these changes constitute an endophenotype for depression and are also present in healthy individuals with hereditary risk for depression.
Thirty healthy, never-depressed monozygotic (MZ) twins with a co-twin history of depression (high risk group: n = 13) or without co-twin history of depression (low-risk group: n = 17) were enrolled in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. During fMRI, participants viewed fearful and happy faces while performing a gender discrimination task. After the scan, they were given a faces dot-probe task, a facial expression recognition task and questionnaires assessing mood, personality traits and coping strategies.
High-risk twins showed increased neural response to happy and fearful faces in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), pre-supplementary motor area and occipito-parietal regions compared to low-risk twins. They also displayed stronger negative coupling between amygdala and pregenual ACC, dmPFC and temporo-parietal regions during emotional face processing. These task-related changes in neural responses in high-risk twins were accompanied by impaired gender discrimination performance during face processing. They also displayed increased attention vigilance for fearful faces and were slower at recognizing facial expressions relative to low-risk controls. These effects occurred in the absence of differences between groups in mood, subjective state or coping.
Different neural response and functional connectivity within fronto-limbic and occipito-parietal regions during emotional face processing and enhanced fear vigilance may be key endophenotypes for depression.
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