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To date, Ireland has been a leading light in the provision of youth mental health services. However, cognisant of the efforts of governmental and non-governmental agencies working in youth mental health, there is much to be done. Barriers into care as well as discontinuity of care across the spectrum of services remain key challenges. This editorial provides guidance for the next stage of development in youth mental care and support that will require significant national engagement and resource investment.
Previous reviews suggest there is minimal evidence for an association between duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) and neurocognition. This is based on tallied findings of studies with small samples and neurocognition viewed as a single construct. We aimed to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the association between DUP and individual neurocognitive domains and tests in first-episode psychosis (FEP).
MOOSE and PRISMA guidelines were followed. Forty-three studies involving 4647 FEP patients were included. For studies providing correlations between DUP and neurocognition, 12 separate meta-analyses were performed based on neurocognitive domains/indices. The influence of demographic/clinical variables was tested using weighted linear meta-regression analyses.
The relationship between DUP and most neurocognitive domains/indices was not significant. Longer DUP was associated with a larger cognitive deterioration index, i.e. current minus premorbid intellectual functioning (N = 4; mean ES −0.213, 95% confidence interval (CI) (−0.344 to −0.074), p = 0.003). Findings were homogeneous, with no evidence of publication bias or significant influence from moderators. For studies providing mean and standard deviations for neurocognitive measures and DUP, 20 meta-regressions were performed on individual neurocognitive tests. One significant finding emerged showing that longer DUP was associated with fewer Wisconsin Card Sorting Test-perseverative errors (mean ES −0.031, 95% CI (−0.048 to −0.013), p < 0.001). Exploratory meta-regressions in studies with mean DUP <360 days showed longer DUP was significantly associated with poorer performance on Trail Making Test A and B and higher Full-Scale IQ.
There may not be a generalised association between DUP and neurocognition, however, specific cognitive functions may be associated with longer DUP or delayed help-seeking.
Cognitive deficits are a core feature of schizophrenia, and impairments in most domains are thought to be stable over the course of the illness. However, cross-sectional evidence indicates that some areas of cognition, such as visuospatial associative memory, may be preserved in the early stages of psychosis, but become impaired in later established illness stages. This longitudinal study investigated change in visuospatial and verbal associative memory following psychosis onset.
In total 95 first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients and 63 healthy controls (HC) were assessed on neuropsychological tests at baseline, with 38 FEP and 22 HCs returning for follow-up assessment at 5–11 years. Visuospatial associative memory was assessed using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery Visuospatial Paired-Associate Learning task, and verbal associative memory was assessed using Verbal Paired Associates subtest of the Wechsler Memory Scale - Revised.
Visuospatial and verbal associative memory at baseline did not differ significantly between FEP patients and HCs. However, over follow-up, visuospatial associative memory deteriorated significantly for the FEP group, relative to healthy individuals. Conversely, verbal associative memory improved to a similar degree observed in HCs. In the FEP cohort, visuospatial (but not verbal) associative memory ability at baseline was associated with functional outcome at follow-up.
Areas of cognition that develop prior to psychosis onset, such as visuospatial and verbal associative memory, may be preserved early in the illness. Later deterioration in visuospatial memory ability may relate to progressive structural and functional brain abnormalities that occurs following psychosis onset.
Lithium and quetiapine are considered standard maintenance agents for bipolar disorder yet it is unclear how their efficacy compares with each other.
To investigate the differential effect of lithium and quetiapine on symptoms of depression, mania, general functioning, global illness severity and quality of life in patients with recently stabilised first-episode mania.
Maintenance trial of patients with first-episode mania stabilised on a combination of lithium and quetiapine, subsequently randomised to lithium or quetiapine monotherapy (up to 800 mg/day) and followed up for 1 year. (Trial registration: Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry – ACTRN12607000639426.)
In total, 61 individuals were randomised. Within mixed-model repeated measures analyses, significant omnibus treatment × visit interactions were observed for measures of overall psychopathology, psychotic symptoms and functioning. Planned and post hoc comparisons further demonstrated the superiority of lithium treatment over quetiapine.
In people with first-episode mania treated with a combination of lithium and quetiapine, continuation treatment with lithium rather than quetiapine is superior in terms of mean levels of symptoms during a 1-year evolution.
White matter disruptions in schizophrenia have been widely reported, but it remains unclear whether these abnormalities differ between illness stages. We mapped the connectome in patients with recently diagnosed and chronic schizophrenia and investigated the extent and overlap of white matter connectivity disruptions between these illness stages.
Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance images were acquired in recent-onset (n = 19) and chronic patients (n = 45) with schizophrenia, as well as age-matched controls (n = 87). Whole-brain fiber tracking was performed to quantify the strength of white matter connections. Connections were tested for significant streamline count reductions in recent-onset and chronic groups, relative to separate age-matched controls. Permutation tests were used to assess whether disrupted connections significantly overlapped between chronic and recent-onset patients. Linear regression was performed to test whether connectivity was strongest in controls, weakest in chronic patients, and midway between these extremities in recent-onset patients (controls > recent-onset > chronic).
Compared with controls, chronic patients displayed a widespread network of connectivity disruptions (p < 0.01). In contrast, connectivity reductions were circumscribed to the anterior fibers of the corpus callosum in recent-onset patients (p < 0.01). A significant proportion of disrupted connections in recent-onset patients (86%) coincided with disrupted connections in chronic patients (p < 0.01). Linear regression revealed that chronic patients displayed reduced connectivity relative to controls, while recent-onset patients showed an intermediate reduction compared with chronic patients (p < 0.01).
Connectome pathology in recent-onset patients with schizophrenia is confined to select tracts within a more extensive network of white matter connectivity disruptions found in chronic illness. These findings may suggest a trajectory of progressive deterioration of connectivity in schizophrenia.
Cannabis use shows a robust dose-dependent relationship with psychosis risk among the general population. Despite this, it has been difficult to link cannabis use with risk for transitioning to a psychotic disorder among individuals at ultra-high risk (UHR) for psychosis. The present study examined UHR transition risk as a function of cannabis use characteristics which vary substantially between individuals including age of first use, cannabis abuse severity and a history of cannabis-induced attenuated psychotic symptoms (APS).
Participants were 190 UHR individuals (76 males) recruited at entry to treatment between 2000 and 2006. They completed a comprehensive baseline assessment including a survey of cannabis use characteristics during the period of heaviest use. Outcome was transition to a psychotic disorder, with mean time to follow-up of 5.0 years (range 2.4–8.7 years).
A history of cannabis abuse was reported in 58% of the sample. Of these, 26% reported a history of cannabis-induced APS. These individuals were 4.90 (95% confidence interval 1.93–12.44) times more likely to transition to a psychotic disorder (p = 0.001). Greater severity of cannabis abuse also predicted transition to psychosis (p = 0.036). However, this effect was mediated by higher abuse severity among individuals with a history of cannabis-induced APS.
Findings suggest that cannabis use poses risk in a subpopulation of UHR individuals who manifest cannabis-induced APS. Whether this reflects underlying genetic vulnerability requires further study. Nevertheless, findings reveal an important early marker of risk with potentially significant prognostic utility for UHR individuals.
Individuals identified as at ultra-high risk (UHR) for psychosis are at risk of poor functional outcome regardless of development of psychotic disorder. Studies examining longitudinal predictors of poor functioning have tended to be small and report only medium-term follow-up data. We sought to examine clinical predictors of functional outcome in a long-term longitudinal study.
Participants were 268 (152 females, 116 males) individuals identified as UHR 2–14 years previously. A range of clinical and sociodemographic variables were assessed at baseline. Functioning at follow-up was assessed using the Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale (SOFAS).
Baseline negative symptoms, impaired emotional functioning, disorders of thought content, low functioning, past substance use disorder and history of childhood maltreatment predicted poor functioning at follow-up in univariate analyses. Only childhood maltreatment remained significant in the multivariate analysis (p < 0.001). Transition to psychosis was also significantly associated with poor functioning at long-term follow-up [mean SOFAS score 59.12 (s.d. = 18.54) in the transitioned group compared to 70.89 (s.d. = 14.00) in the non-transitioned group, p < 0.001]. Childhood maltreatment was a significant predictor of poor functioning in both the transitioned and non-transitioned groups.
Childhood maltreatment and transition to psychotic disorder independently predicted poor long-term functioning. This suggests that it is important to assess history of childhood maltreatment in clinical management of UHR individuals. The finding that transition to psychosis predicts poor long-term functioning strengthens the evidence that the UHR criteria detect a subgroup at risk for schizophrenia.
Whether there are differential effects of first-generation antipsychotics (FGAs) and second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) on the brain is currently debated. Although some studies report that FGAs reduce grey matter more than SGAs, others do not, and research to date is limited by a focus on schizophrenia spectrum disorders. To address this limitation, this study investigated the effects of medication in patients being treated for first-episode schizophrenia or affective psychoses.
Cortical thickness was compared between 52 first-episode psychosis patients separated into diagnostic (i.e. schizophrenia or affective psychosis) and medication (i.e. FGA and SGA) subgroups. Patients in each group were also compared to age- and sex-matched healthy controls (n = 28). A whole-brain cortical thickness interaction analysis of medication and diagnosis was then performed. Correlations between cortical thickness with antipsychotic dose and psychotic symptoms were examined.
The effects of medication and diagnosis did not interact, suggesting independent effects. Compared with controls, diagnostic differences were found in frontal, parietal and temporal regions. Decreased thickness in FGA-treated versus SGA-treated groups was found in a large frontoparietal region (p < 0.001, corrected). Comparisons with healthy controls revealed decreased cortical thickness in the FGA group whereas the SGA group showed increases in addition to decreases. In FGA-treated patients cortical thinning was associated with higher negative symptoms whereas increased cortical thickness in the SGA-treated group was associated with lower positive symptoms.
Our results suggest that FGA and SGA treatments have divergent effects on cortical thickness during the first episode of psychosis that are independent from changes due to illness.
There are insufficient data from nationwide surveys on the prevalence of specific psychotic disorders and associated co-morbidities.
The 2010 Australian national psychosis survey used a two-phase design to draw a representative sample of adults aged 18–64 years with psychotic disorders in contact with public treatment services from an estimated resident population of 1 464 923 adults. This paper is based on data from 1642 participants with an International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 psychotic disorder. Its aim is to present estimates of treated prevalence and lifetime morbid risk of psychosis, and to describe the cognitive, physical health and substance use profiles of participants.
The 1-month treated prevalence of psychotic disorders was 3.10 cases per 1000 population aged 18–64 years, not accounting for people solely accessing primary care services; lifetime morbid risk was 3.45 per 1000. Mean premorbid intelligence quotient was approximately 0.5 s.d.s below the population mean; current cognitive ability (measured with a digit symbol coding task) was 1.6 s.d.s below the population mean. For both cognitive tests, higher scores were significantly associated with better independent functioning. The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome was high, affecting 60.8% of participants, and pervasive across diagnostic groups. Of the participants, two-thirds (65.9%) were current smokers, 47.4% were obese and 32.4% were sedentary. Of the participants, half (49.8%) had a lifetime history of alcohol abuse/dependence and 50.8% lifetime cannabis abuse/dependence.
Our findings highlight the need for comprehensive, integrative models of recovery to maximize the potential for good health and quality of life for people with psychotic illness.
Grey matter volume and cortical thickness represent two complementary aspects of brain structure. Several studies have described reductions in grey matter volume in people at ultra-high risk (UHR) of psychosis; however, little is known about cortical thickness in this group. The aim of the present study was to investigate cortical thickness alterations in UHR subjects and compare individuals who subsequently did and did not develop psychosis.
We examined magnetic resonance imaging data collected at four different scanning sites. The UHR subjects were followed up for at least 2 years. Subsequent to scanning, 50 UHR subjects developed psychosis and 117 did not. Cortical thickness was examined in regions previously identified as sites of neuroanatomical alterations in UHR subjects, using voxel-based cortical thickness.
At baseline UHR subjects, compared with controls, showed reduced cortical thickness in the right parahippocampal gyrus (p < 0.05, familywise error corrected). There were no significant differences in cortical thickness between the UHR subjects who later developed psychosis and those who did not.
These data suggest that UHR symptomatology is characterized by alterations in the thickness of the medial temporal cortex. We did not find evidence that the later progression to psychosis was linked to additional alterations in cortical thickness, although we cannot exclude the possibility that the study lacked sufficient power to detect such differences.
Many research groups have attempted to predict which individuals with an at-risk mental state (ARMS) for psychosis will later develop a psychotic disorder. However, it is difficult to predict the course and outcome based on individual symptoms scores.
Data from 318 ARMS individuals from two specialized services for ARMS subjects were analysed using latent class cluster analysis (LCCA). The score on the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental States (CAARMS) was used to explore the number, size and symptom profiles of latent classes.
LCCA produced four high-risk classes, censored after 2 years of follow-up: class 1 (mild) had the lowest transition risk (4.9%). Subjects in this group had the lowest scores on all the CAARMS items, they were younger, more likely to be students and had the highest Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score. Subjects in class 2 (moderate) had a transition risk of 10.9%, scored moderately on all CAARMS items and were more likely to be in employment. Those in class 3 (moderate–severe) had a transition risk of 11.4% and scored moderately severe on the CAARMS. Subjects in class 4 (severe) had the highest transition risk (41.2%), they scored highest on the CAARMS, had the lowest GAF score and were more likely to be unemployed. Overall, class 4 was best distinguished from the other classes on the alogia, avolition/apathy, anhedonia, social isolation and impaired role functioning.
The different classes of symptoms were associated with significant differences in the risk of transition at 2 years of follow-up. Symptomatic clustering predicts prognosis better than individual symptoms.
The past two decades have seen exponential clinical and research interest in help-seeking individuals presenting with potentially prodromal symptoms for psychosis. However, the epidemiological validity of this paradigm has been neglected, limiting future advancements in the field.
We undertook a critical review of core epidemiological issues underlying the clinical high-risk (HR) state for psychosis and which model of prodromal intervention is best suited for mental health.
The HR state for psychosis model needs refining, to bring together population-based findings of high levels of psychotic experiences (PEs) and clinical expression of risk. Traditionally, outcome has been attributed to ‘HR criteria’ alone rather than taking into account sampling strategies. Furthermore, the exclusive focus on variably defined ‘transition’ obscures true variation in the slow and non-linear progression across stages of psychopathology. Finally, the outcome from HR states is variable, indicating that the underlying paradigm of ‘schizophrenia light progressing to schizophrenia’ is inadequate.
In the general population, mixed and non-specific expression of psychosis, depression, anxiety and subthreshold mania is common and mostly transitory. When combined with distress, it may be considered as the first, diagnostically neutral stage of potentially more severe psychopathology, which only later may acquire a degree of diagnostic specificity and possible relative resistance to treatment. Therefore, rather than creating silos of per-disorder ultra-HR syndromes, an early intervention focus on the broad syndrome of early mental distress, requiring phase-specific interventions, may be more profitable.
In this review, we provide an update of recent studies on the age of onset (AOO) of the major mental disorders, with a special focus on the availability and use of services providing prevention and early intervention.
The studies reviewed here confirm previous reports on the AOO of the major mental disorders. Although the behaviour disorders and specific anxiety disorders emerge during childhood, most of the high-prevalence disorders (mood, anxiety and substance use) emerge during adolescence and early adulthood, as do the psychotic disorders. Early AOO has been shown to be associated with a longer duration of untreated illness, and poorer clinical and functional outcomes.
Although the onset of most mental disorders usually occurs during the first three decades of life, effective treatment is typically not initiated until a number of years later. There is increasing evidence that intervention during the early stages of disorder may help reduce the severity and/or the persistence of the initial or primary disorder, and prevent secondary disorders. However, additional research is needed on effective interventions in early-stage cases, as well as on the long-term effects of early intervention, and for an appropriate service design for those with emerging mental disorders. This will mean not only the strengthening and re-engineering of existing systems, but is also crucial the construction of new streams of care for young people in transition to adulthood.
In recent years there has been increasing interest in functional recovery in the early phase of schizophrenia. Concurrently, new remission criteria have been proposed and several studies have examined their clinical relevance for prediction of functional outcome in first-episode psychosis (FEP). However, the longitudinal interrelationship between full functional recovery (FFR) and symptom remission has not yet been investigated. This study sought to: (1) examine the relationships between FFR and symptom remission in FEP over 7.5 years; (2) test two different models of the interaction between both variables.
Altogether, 209 FEP patients treated at a specialized early psychosis service were assessed at baseline, 8 months, 14 months and 7.5 years to determine their remission of positive and negative symptoms and functional recovery. Multivariate logistic regression and path analysis were employed to test the hypothesized relationships between symptom remission and FFR.
Remission of both positive and negative symptoms at 8-month follow-up predicted functional recovery at 14-month follow-up, but had limited value for the prediction of FFR at 7.5 years. Functional recovery at 14-month follow-up significantly predicted both FFR and remission of negative symptoms at 7.5 years, irrespective of whether remission criteria were simultaneously met. The association remained significant after controlling for baseline prognostic indicators.
These findings provided support for the hypothesis that early functional and vocational recovery plays a pivotal role in preventing the development of chronic negative symptoms and disability. This underlines the need for interventions that specifically address early psychosocial recovery.
Little research has focused on delineating the specific predictors of emotional over-involvement (EOI) and critical comments (CC) in the early course of psychosis. The purpose of this study was to investigate the differential relationships of EOI and CC with relevant predictors in relatives of first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients.
Baseline patient-related factors including psychotic symptoms, depression and duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) and carer attributes comprising CC, EOI, burden of care and carers' stress and depression were assessed in a cohort of 63 remitted FEP patients and their relatives. Carers were reassessed at 7 months follow-up.
Baseline analysis showed that EOI was more strongly correlated with family stress compared with CC, whereas CC yielded a stronger association with DUP than EOI. Carers' CC at follow-up was not significantly predicted by either baseline family stress, burden of care or patient-related variables. Conversely, baseline EOI predicted both family stress and burden of care at 7 months follow-up. Finally, family burden of care at follow-up was a function of baseline EOI and patients' depressive symptoms.
This study provides preliminary support to the postulate that EOI and CC may be influenced by separate factors early in the course of psychosis and warrant future research and therapeutic interventions as separate constructs. Implications for family interventions in the early phase of psychosis and the prevention of CC and EOI are discussed.