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The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) has emerged out of the quantitative approach to psychiatric nosology. This approach identifies psychopathology constructs based on patterns of co-variation among signs and symptoms. The initial HiTOP model, which was published in 2017, is based on a large literature that spans decades of research. HiTOP is a living model that undergoes revision as new data become available. Here we discuss advantages and practical considerations of using this system in psychiatric practice and research. We especially highlight limitations of HiTOP and ongoing efforts to address them. We describe differences and similarities between HiTOP and existing diagnostic systems. Next, we review the types of evidence that informed development of HiTOP, including populations in which it has been studied and data on its validity. The paper also describes how HiTOP can facilitate research on genetic and environmental causes of psychopathology as well as the search for neurobiologic mechanisms and novel treatments. Furthermore, we consider implications for public health programs and prevention of mental disorders. We also review data on clinical utility and illustrate clinical application of HiTOP. Importantly, the model is based on measures and practices that are already used widely in clinical settings. HiTOP offers a way to organize and formalize these techniques. This model already can contribute to progress in psychiatry and complement traditional nosologies. Moreover, HiTOP seeks to facilitate research on linkages between phenotypes and biological processes, which may enable construction of a system that encompasses both biomarkers and precise clinical description.
Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) capture genetic vulnerability to psychiatric conditions. However, PRSs are often associated with multiple mental health problems in children, complicating their use in research and clinical practice. The current study is the first to systematically test which PRSs associate broadly with all forms of childhood psychopathology, and which PRSs are more specific to one or a handful of forms of psychopathology.
The sample consisted of 4717 unrelated children (mean age = 9.92, s.d. = 0.62; 47.1% female; all European ancestry). Psychopathology was conceptualized hierarchically as empirically derived general factor (p-factor) and five specific factors: externalizing, internalizing, neurodevelopmental, somatoform, and detachment. Partial correlations explored associations between psychopathology factors and 22 psychopathology-related PRSs. Regressions tested which level of the psychopathology hierarchy was most strongly associated with each PRS.
Thirteen PRSs were significantly associated with the general factor, most prominently Chronic Multisite Pain-PRS (r = 0.098), ADHD-PRS (r = 0.079), and Depression-PRS (r = 0.078). After adjusting for the general factor, Depression-PRS, Neuroticism-PRS, PTSD-PRS, Insomnia-PRS, Chronic Back Pain-PRS, and Autism-PRS were not associated with lower order factors. Conversely, several externalizing PRSs, including Adventurousness-PRS and Disinhibition-PRS, remained associated with the externalizing factor (|r| = 0.040–0.058). The ADHD-PRS remained uniquely associated with the neurodevelopmental factor (r = 062).
PRSs developed to predict vulnerability to emotional difficulties and chronic pain generally captured genetic risk for all forms of childhood psychopathology. PRSs developed to predict vulnerability to externalizing difficulties, e.g. disinhibition, tended to be more specific in predicting behavioral problems. The results may inform translation of existing PRSs to pediatric research and future clinical practice.
Genetics hold promise of predicting long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) outcomes following trauma. The aim of the current study was to test whether six hypothesized polygenic risk scores (PRSs) developed to capture genetic vulnerability to psychiatric conditions prospectively predict PTSD onset, severity, and 18-year course after trauma exposure.
Participants were 1490 responders to the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster (mean age at 9/11 = 38.81 years, s.d. = 8.20; 93.5% male; 23.8% lifetime WTC-related PTSD diagnosis). Prospective longitudinal data on WTC-related PTSD symptoms were obtained from electronic medical records and modelled as PTSD trajectories using growth mixture model analysis. Independent regression models tested whether six hypothesized psychiatric PRSs (PTSD-PRS, Re-experiencing-PRS, Generalized Anxiety-PRS, Schizophrenia-PRS, Depression-PRS, and Neuroticism-PRS) are predictive of WTC-PTSD outcomes: lifetime diagnoses, average symptom severity, and 18-year symptom trajectory. All analyses were adjusted for population stratification, 9/11 exposure severity, and multiple testing.
Depression-PRS predicted PTSD diagnostic status (OR 1.37, CI 1.17–1.61, adjusted p = 0.001). All PRSs, except PTSD-PRS, significantly predicted average PTSD symptoms (β = 0.06–0.10, adjusted p < 0.05). Re-experiencing-PRS, Generalized Anxiety-PRS and Schizophrenia-PRS predicted the high severity PTSD trajectory class (ORs 1.21–1.28, adjusted p < 0.05). Finally, PRSs prediction was independent of 9/11 exposure severity and jointly accounted for 3.7 times more variance in PTSD symptoms than the exposure severity.
Psychiatric PRSs prospectively predicted WTC-related PTSD lifetime diagnosis, average symptom severity, and 18-year trajectory in responders to 9/11 disaster. Jointly, PRSs were more predictive of subsequent PTSD than the exposure severity. In the future, PRSs may help identify at-risk responders who might benefit from targeted prevention approaches.
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