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Firefighting service is known to involve high rates of exposure to potentially traumatic situations, and research on mental health in firefighting populations is of critical importance in understanding the impact of occupational exposure. To date, the literature concerning prevalence of trauma-related mental disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has not distinguished between symptomology associated routine duty-related exposure and exposure to large-scale disaster. The present systematic review synthesizes a heterogeneous cross-national literature on large-scale disaster exposure in firefighters and provides support for the hypothesis that the prevalence of PTSD, major depressive disorder, and anxiety disorders are elevated in firefighters compared with rates observed in the general population. In addition, we conducted narrative synthesis concerning several commonly assessed predictive factors for disorder and found that sociodemographic factors appear to bear a weak relationship to mental disorder, while incident-related factors, such as severity and duration of disaster exposure, bear a stronger and more consistent relationship to the development of PTSD and depression in cross-national samples. Future work should expand on these preliminary findings to better understand the impact of disaster exposure in firefighting personnel.
Depressive episodes experienced in unipolar (UD) and bipolar (BD) disorders are characterized by anhedonia and have been associated with abnormalities in reward processes related to reward valuation and error prediction. It remains however unclear whether these deficits are associated with familial vulnerability to mood disorders.
In a functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we evaluated differences in the expected value (EV) and reward prediction error (RPE) signals in ventral striatum (VS) and prefrontal cortex between three groups of monozygotic twins: affected twins in remission for either UD or BD (n = 53), their high-risk unaffected co-twins (n = 34), and low-risk twins with no family history of mood disorders (n = 25).
Compared to low-risk twins, affected twins showed lower EV signal bilaterally in the frontal poles and lower RPE signal bilaterally in the VS, left frontal pole and superior frontal gyrus. The high-risk group did not show a significant change in the EV or RPE signals in frontostriatal regions, yet both reward signals were consistently lower compared with low-risk twins in all regions where the affected twins showed significant reductions.
Our findings strengthen the notion that reduced valuation of expected rewards and reduced error-dependent reward learning may underpin core symptom of depression such as loss of interest in rewarding activities. The trend reduction in reward-related signals in unaffected co-twins warrants further investigation of this effect in larger samples and prospective follow-up to confirm possible association with increased familial vulnerability to mood disorders.
Lithium (Li) is the gold standard treatment for bipolar disorder (BD). However, its mechanisms of action remain unknown but include neurotrophic effects. We here investigated the influence of Li on cortical and local grey matter (GM) volumes in a large international sample of patients with BD and healthy controls (HC).
We analyzed high-resolution T1-weighted structural magnetic resonance imaging scans of 271 patients with BD type I (120 undergoing Li) and 316 HC. Cortical and local GM volumes were compared using voxel-wise approaches with voxel-based morphometry and SIENAX using FSL. We used multiple linear regression models to test the influence of Li on cortical and local GM volumes, taking into account potential confounding factors such as a history of alcohol misuse.
Patients taking Li had greater cortical GM volume than patients without. Patients undergoing Li had greater regional GM volumes in the right middle frontal gyrus, the right anterior cingulate gyrus, and the left fusiform gyrus in comparison with patients not taking Li.
Our results in a large multicentric sample support the hypothesis that Li could exert neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects limiting pathological GM atrophy in key brain regions associated with BD.
Individuals with bipolar disorder (BD) show aberrant brain activation patterns during reward and loss anticipation. We examined for the first time longitudinal changes in brain activation during win and loss anticipation to identify trait markers of aberrant anticipatory processing in BD.
Thirty-four euthymic and depressed individuals with BD-I and 17 healthy controls (HC) were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging twice 6 months apart during a reward task.
HC, but not individuals with BD, showed longitudinal reductions in the right lateral occipital cortex (RLOC) activation during processing of cues predicting possible money loss (p-corrected <0.05). This result was not affected by psychotropic medication, mood state or the changes in depression/mania severity between the two scans in BD. Elevated symptoms of subthreshold hypo/mania at baseline predicted more aberrant longitudinal patterns of RLOC activation explaining 12.5% of variance in individuals with BD.
Increased activation in occipital cortex during negative outcome anticipation may be related to elevated negative emotional arousal during anticipatory cue processing. One interpretation is that, unlike HC, individuals with BD were not able to learn at baseline that monetary losses were smaller than monetary gains and were not able to reduce emotional arousal for negative cues 6 months later. Future research in BD should examine how modulating occipital cortical activation affects learning from experience in individuals with BD.
Trauma exposure is associated with development of depression and anxiety; yet, some individuals are resilient to these trauma-associated effects. Differentiating mechanisms underlying development of negative affect and resilience following trauma is critical for developing effective interventions. One pathway through which trauma could exert its effects on negative affect is reward-learning networks. In this study, we examined relationships among lifetime trauma, reward-learning network function, and emotional states in young adults.
One hundred eleven young adults self-reported trauma and emotional states and underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during a monetary reward task. Trauma-associated neural activation and functional connectivity were analyzed during reward prediction error (RPE). Relationships between trauma-associated neural functioning and affective and anxiety symptoms were examined.
Number of traumatic events was associated with greater ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) activation, and lower vACC connectivity with the right insula, frontopolar, inferior parietal, and temporoparietal regions, during RPE. Lower trauma-associated vACC connectivity with frontoparietal regions implicated in regulatory and decision-making processes was associated with heightened affective and anxiety symptoms; lower vACC connectivity with insular regions implicated in interoception was associated with lower affective and anxiety symptoms.
In a young adult sample, two pathways linked the impact of trauma on reward-learning networks with higher v. lower negative affective and anxiety symptoms. The disconnection between vACC and regions implicated in decision-making and self-referential processes may reflect aberrant regulatory but appropriate self-focused mechanisms, respectively, conferring risk for v. resilience against negative affective and anxiety symptoms.
The extent to which observed differences in emotion processing and
regulation neural circuitry in adolescents with a history of suicide attempt
are paralleled by structural differences is unknown. We measured brain
cortical thickness and grey- and white-matter volumes in 100 adolescents: 28
with a history of suicide attempt and major depressive disorder (MDD); 31
with a history of MDD but no suicide attempt; and a healthy control group
(n = 41). The first group compared with controls showed
reduction in grey-matter volume in the right superior temporal gyrus (BA38),
a region important for social emotion processing.