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Deficits in social cognition (SC) are significantly related to community functioning in schizophrenia (SZ). Few studies investigated longitudinal changes in SC and its impact on recovery. In the present study, we aimed: (a) to estimate the magnitude and clinical significance of SC change in outpatients with stable SZ who were assessed at baseline and after 4 years, (b) to identify predictors of reliable and clinically significant change (RCSC), and (c) to determine whether changes in SC over 4 years predicted patient recovery at follow-up.
The reliable change index was used to estimate the proportion of true change in SC, not attributable to measurement error. Stepwise multiple logistic regression models were used to identify the predictors of RCSC in a SC domain (The Awareness of Social Inference Test [TASIT]) and the effect of change in TASIT on recovery at follow-up.
In 548 participants, statistically significant improvements were found for the simple and paradoxical sarcasm of TASIT scale, and for the total score of section 2. The reliable change index was 9.8. A cut-off of 45 identified patients showing clinically significant change. Reliable change was achieved by 12.6% and RCSC by 8% of participants. Lower baseline TASIT sect. 2 score predicted reliable improvement on TASIT sect. 2. Improvement in TASIT sect. 2 scores predicted functional recovery, with a 10-point change predicting 40% increase in the probability of recovery.
The RCSC index provides a conservative way to assess the improvement in the ability to grasp sarcasm in SZ, and is associated with recovery.
Resilience is defined as the ability to modify thoughts to cope with stressful events. Patients with schizophrenia (SCZ) having higher resilience (HR) levels show less severe symptoms and better real-life functioning. However, the clinical factors contributing to determine resilience levels in patients remain unclear. Thus, based on psychological, historical, clinical and environmental variables, we built a supervised machine learning algorithm to classify patients with HR or lower resilience (LR).
SCZ from the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses (N = 598 in the Discovery sample, N = 298 in the Validation sample) underwent historical, clinical, psychological, environmental and resilience assessments. A Support Vector Machine algorithm (based on 85 variables extracted from the above-mentioned assessments) was built in the Discovery sample, and replicated in the Validation sample, to classify between HR and LR patients, within a nested, Leave-Site-Out Cross-Validation framework. We then investigated whether algorithm decision scores were associated with the cognitive and clinical characteristics of patients.
The algorithm classified patients as HR or LR with a Balanced Accuracy of 74.5% (p < 0.0001) in the Discovery sample, and 80.2% in the Validation sample. Higher self-esteem, larger social network and use of adaptive coping strategies were the variables most frequently chosen by the algorithm to generate decisions. Correlations between algorithm decision scores, socio-cognitive abilities, and symptom severity were significant (pFDR < 0.05).
We identified an accurate, meaningful and generalizable clinical-psychological signature associated with resilience in SCZ. This study delivers relevant information regarding psychological and clinical factors that non-pharmacological interventions could target in schizophrenia.
Impairment in a wide range of cognitive abilities has been consistently reported in individuals with schizophrenia. Both neurocognitive and social cognitive deficits are thought to underlie severe functional disabilities associated with schizophrenia. Despite the key role in schizophrenia outcome, cognition is still poorly assessed in both research and clinical settings.
In this guidance paper, we provide a systematic review of the scientific literature and elaborate several recommendations for the assessment of cognitive functions in schizophrenia both in research settings and in real-world clinical practice.
Expert consensus and systematic reviews provided guidance for the optimal assessment of cognitive functions in schizophrenia. Based on the reviewed evidence, we recommend a comprehensive and systematic assessment of neurocognitive and social cognitive domains in schizophrenia, in all phases of the disorder, as well as in subjects at risk to develop psychosis. This European Psychiatric Association guidance recommends not only the use of observer reports but also self-reports and interview-based cognitive assessment tools. The guidance also provides a systematic review of the state of the art of assessment in the first episode of psychosis patients and in individuals at risk for psychosis.
The comprehensive review of the evidence and the recommendations might contribute to advance the field, allowing a better cognitive assessment, and avoiding overlaps with other psychopathological dimensions. The dissemination of this guidance paper may promote the development of shared guidelines concerning the assessment of cognitive functions in schizophrenia, with the purpose to improve the quality of care and to obtain recovery.
Although cognitive impairment is a core symptom of schizophrenia related to poorer outcomes in different functional domains, it still remains a major therapeutic challenge. To date, no comprehensive treatment guidelines for cognitive impairment in schizophrenia are implemented.
The aim of the present guidance paper is to provide a comprehensive meta-review of the current available evidence-based treatments for cognitive impairment in schizophrenia. The guidance is structured into three sections: pharmacological treatment, psychosocial interventions, and somatic treatments.
Based on the reviewed evidence, this European Psychiatric Association guidance recommends an appropriate pharmacological management as a fundamental starting point in the treatment of cognitive impairment in schizophrenia. In particular, second-generation antipsychotics are recommended for their favorable cognitive profile compared to first-generation antipsychotics, although no clear superiority of a single second-generation antipsychotic has currently been found. Anticholinergic and benzodiazepine burdens should be kept to a minimum, considering the negative impact on cognitive functioning. Among psychosocial interventions, cognitive remediation and physical exercise are recommended for the treatment of cognitive impairment in schizophrenia. Noninvasive brain stimulation techniques could be taken into account as add-on therapy.
Overall, there is definitive progress in the field, but further research is needed to develop specific treatments for cognitive impairment in schizophrenia. The dissemination of this guidance paper may promote the development of shared guidelines concerning the treatment of cognitive functions in schizophrenia, with the purpose to improve the quality of care and to achieve recovery in this population.
Network analysis has been used to explore the interplay between psychopathology and functioning in psychosis, but no study has used dedicated statistical techniques to focus on the bridge symptoms connecting these domains. The current study aims to estimate the network of depressive, negative, and positive symptoms, general psychopathology, and real-world functioning in people with first-episode schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorder, focusing on bridge nodes.
Baseline data from the OPTiMiSE trial were analyzed. The sample included 446 participants (age 40.0 ± 10.9 years, 70% males). The network was estimated with a Gaussian graphical model, using scores on individual items of the positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS), the Calgary depression scale for schizophrenia, and the personal and social performance scale. Stability, strength centrality, expected influence (EI), predictability, and bridge centrality statistics were computed. The top 20% scoring nodes on bridge strength were selected as bridge nodes.
Nodes from different rating scales assessing similar psychopathological and functioning constructs tended to cluster together in the estimated network. The most central nodes (EI) were Delusions, Emotional Withdrawal, Depression, and Depressed Mood. Bridge nodes included Depression, Conceptual Disorganization, Active Social Avoidance, Delusions, Stereotyped Thinking, Poor Impulse Control, Guilty Feelings, Unusual Thought Content, and Hostility. Most of the bridge nodes belonged to the general psychopathology subscale of the PANSS. Depression (G6) was the bridge node with the highest value.
The current study provides novel insights for understanding the complex phenotype of psychotic disorders and the mechanisms underlying the development and maintenance of comorbidity and functional impairment after psychosis onset.
Negative symptoms are one of the most incapacitating features of Schizophrenia but their pathophysiology remains unclear. They have been linked to alterations in grey matter in several brain regions, but findings have been inconsistent. This may reflect the investigation of relatively small patient samples, and the confounding effects of chronic illness and exposure to antipsychotic medication. We sought to address these issues by investigating concurrently grey matter volumes (GMV) and cortical thickness (CTh) in a large sample of antipsychotic-naïve or minimally treated patients with First-Episode Schizophrenia (FES).
T1-weighted structural MRI brain scans were acquired from 180 antipsychotic-naïve or minimally treated patients recruited as part of the OPTiMiSE study. The sample was stratified into subgroups with (N = 88) or without (N = 92) Prominent Negative Symptoms (PMN), based on PANSS ratings at presentation. Regional GMV and CTh in the two groups were compared using Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM) and FreeSurfer (FS). Between-group differences were corrected for multiple comparisons via Family-Wise Error (FWE) and Monte Carlo z-field simulation respectively at p < 0.05 (2-tailed).
The presence of PMN symptoms was associated with larger left inferior orbitofrontal volume (p = 0.03) and greater CTh in the left lateral orbitofrontal gyrus (p = 0.007), but reduced CTh in the left superior temporal gyrus (p = 0.009).
The findings highlight the role of orbitofrontal and temporal cortices in the pathogenesis of negative symptoms of Schizophrenia. As they were evident in generally untreated FEP patients, the results are unlikely to be related to effects of previous treatment or illness chronicity.
Mental disorders in comorbidity with chronic skin diseases may worsen disease outcome and patients’ quality of life. We hypothesized the comorbidity of depression, anxiety syndromes, or symptoms as attributable to biological mechanisms that the combined diseases share.
We conducted a systematic review based on the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis statement searching into PubMed, PsycInfo, and Scopus databases. We examined the literature regarding the comorbidity of psoriasis (Ps), atopic dermatitis (AD), or hidradenitis suppurativa with depression and/or anxiety in adults ≥18 years and the hypothetical shared underlying biological mechanisms.
Sixteen studies were analyzed, mostly regarding Ps and AD. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor/tropomyosin receptor kinase B signaling and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells/p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways arose as shared mechanisms in Ps animal models with depression- and/or anxiety-like behaviors. Activated microglia and neuroinflammatory responses emerged in AD depressive models. As to genetic studies, atopic-dermatitis patients with comorbid anxiety traits carried the short variant of serotonin transporter and a polymorphism of the human translocator protein gene. A GA genotype of catechol-O-methyltransferase gene was instead associated with Ps. Reduced natural killer cell activity, IL-4, serotonin serum levels, and increased plasma cortisol and IgE levels were hypothesized in comorbid depressive AD patients. In Ps patients with comorbid depression, high serum concentrations of IL-6 and IL-18, as well as IL-17A, were presumed to act as shared inflammatory mechanisms.
Further studies should investigate mental disorders and chronic skin diseases concurrently across patients’ life course and identify their temporal relation and biological correlates. Future research should also identify biological characteristics of individuals at high risk of the comorbid disorders and associated complications.
The European impact of the clinical high risk for psychosis (CHR-P) paradigm is constrained by the lack of critical mass (detection) to power prognostic and preventive interventions.
An ITAlian partnership for psychosis prevention (ITAPP) was created across CHR-P centers, which were surveyed to describe: (a) service, catchment area, and outreach; (b) service users; and (c) interventions and outcomes. Descriptive statistics and Kaplan–Meier failure function complemented the analyses.
The ITAPP included five CHR-P clinical academic centers established from 2007 to 2018, serving about 13 million inhabitants, with a recruitment capacity of 277 CHR-P individuals (mean age: 18.7 years, SD: 4.8, range: 12–39 years; 53.1% females; 85.7% meeting attenuated psychotic symptoms; 85.8% without any substance abuse). All centers were multidisciplinary and included adolescents and young adults (transitional) primarily recruited through healthcare services. The comprehensive assessment of at-risk mental state was the most widely used instrument, while the duration of follow-up, type of outreach, and preventive interventions were heterogeneous. Across 205 CHR-P individuals with follow up (663.7 days ± 551.7), the cumulative risk of psychosis increased from 8.7% (95% CI 5.3–14.1) at 1 year to 15.9% (95% CI 10.6–23.3) at 2 years, 21.8% (95% CI 14.9–31.3) at 3 years, 34.8% (95% CI 24.5–47.9) at 4 years, and 51.9% (95% CI 36.3–69.6) at 5 years.
The ITAPP is one of the few CHR-P clinical research partnerships in Europe for fostering detection, prognosis, and preventive care, as well as for translating research innovations into practice.
Patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) have worse physical health and reduced life expectancy compared to the general population. In 2009, the European Psychiatric Association, the European Society of Cardiology and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes published a position paper aimed to improve cardiovascular and diabetes care in patients with severe mental illnesses. However, the initiative did not produce the expected results. Experts in SSD or in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases convened to identify main issues relevant to management of cardiometabolic risk factors in schizophrenia patients and to seek consensus through the Delphi method.
The steering committee identified four topics: 1) cardiometabolic risk factors in schizophrenia patients; 2) cardiometabolic risk factors related to antipsychotic treatment; 3) differences in antipsychotic cardiometabolic profiles; 4) management of cardiometabolic risk. Twelve key statements were included in a Delphi questionnaire delivered to a panel of expert European psychiatrists.
Consensus was reached for all statements with positive agreement higher than 85% in the first round. European psychiatrists agreed on: 1) high cardiometabolic risk in patients with SSD, 2) importance of correct risk management of cardiometabolic diseases, from lifestyle modification to treatment of risk factors, including the choice of antipsychotic drugs with a favourable cardiometabolic profile. The expert panel identified the psychiatrist as the central coordinating figure of management, possibly assisted by other specialists and general practitioners.
This study demonstrates high level of agreement among European psychiatrists regarding the importance of cardiovascular risk assessment and management in subjects with SSD.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSDs), although conceptualized as separate entities, may share some clinical and neurobiological features. ASD symptoms may have a relevant role in determining a more severe clinical presentation of schizophrenic disorder but their relationships with cognitive aspects and functional outcomes of the disease remain to be addressed in large samples of individuals.
To investigate the clinical, cognitive, and functional correlates of ASD symptoms in a large sample of people diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The severity of ASD symptoms was measured with the PANSS Autism Severity Scale (PAUSS) in 921 individuals recruited for the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses multicenter study. Based on the PAUSS scores, three groups of subjects were compared on a wide array of cognitive and functional measures.
Subjects with more severe ASD symptoms showed a poorer performance in the processing speed (p = 0.010), attention (p = 0.011), verbal memory (p = 0.035), and social cognition (p = 0.001) domains, and an overall lower global cognitive composite score (p = 0.010). Subjects with more severe ASD symptoms also showed poorer functional capacity (p = 0.004), real-world interpersonal relationships (p < 0.001), and participation in community-living activities (p < 0.001).
These findings strengthen the notion that ASD symptoms may have a relevant impact on different aspects of the disease, crucial to the life of people with schizophrenia. Prominent ASD symptoms may characterize a specific subpopulation of individuals with SSD.
Patients with schizophrenia display experiential anomalies in their feelings and cognitions arising in the domain of their lived body. These abnormal bodily phenomena (ABP) are not part of diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia. One of the reasons is the difficulty to assess specific ABP for schizophrenia spectrum disorders. The present study aimed to explore the presence in patients with schizophrenia of specific ABP.
We used a semistructured interview—the Abnormal Bodily Phenomena questionnaire (ABPq), an instrument devised to detect and measure ABP specific to patients with schizophrenia. Fifty-one outpatients affected by schizophrenia and 28 euthymic outpatients affected by bipolar disorder type I with psychotic features (BD-pf-e) were recruited. Before assessing the specificity for schizophrenia of the observed ABP, we tested the internal consistency and the convergent validity of the ABPq in patients with schizophrenia. Specificity was assessed by examining potential differences in ABPq among the patients with schizophrenia in remission (SCZ-r) and BD-pf-e.
The ABPq shows strong internal consistency and convergent validity. As to the specificity, ABP measured by ABPq were more frequent and severe in SCZ-r than in BD-pf-e. In particular, all ABPq dimensions, except “Coherence,” had at least mild severity in over 50% of SCZ-r, while dimensions with at least mild severity were observed in 5–10% of the BD-pf-e.
These findings can contribute to establish more precise phenomenal boundaries between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, to explore the borders between nonpsychotic and psychotic forms of ABP, between ABP and negative and disorganized symptoms, and to enlighten core aspects of schizophrenia.
Greater levels of insight may be linked with depressive symptoms among patients with schizophrenia, however, it would be useful to characterize this association at symptom-level, in order to inform research on interventions.
Data on depressive symptoms (Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia) and insight (G12 item from the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale) were obtained from 921 community-dwelling, clinically-stable individuals with a DSM-IV diagnosis of schizophrenia, recruited in a nationwide multicenter study. Network analysis was used to explore the most relevant connections between insight and depressive symptoms, including potential confounders in the model (neurocognitive and social-cognitive functioning, positive, negative and disorganization symptoms, extrapyramidal symptoms, hostility, internalized stigma, and perceived discrimination). Bayesian network analysis was used to estimate a directed acyclic graph (DAG) while investigating the most likely direction of the putative causal association between insight and depression.
After adjusting for confounders, better levels of insight were associated with greater self-depreciation, pathological guilt, morning depression and suicidal ideation. No difference in global network structure was detected for socioeconomic status, service engagement or illness severity. The DAG confirmed the presence of an association between greater insight and self-depreciation, suggesting the more probable causal direction was from insight to depressive symptoms.
In schizophrenia, better levels of insight may cause self-depreciation and, possibly, other depressive symptoms. Person-centered and narrative psychotherapeutic approaches may be particularly fit to improve patient insight without dampening self-esteem.
The Bulgarian Ministry of Health invited the European Psychiatric Association (EPA) to evaluate Bulgarian mental health care service provision in 2018. Bulgarian mental health services face very significant challenges including a legacy of historic underfunding, internal conflicts, poor planning, and the emigration of very high numbers of younger skilled staff that had followed accession to the European Union. There were significant disputes between stakeholders regarding the way forward and had been at least two unsuccessful previous external agency interventions that had attempted to find solutions.
This EPA position paper describes in detail the EPA mission to Bulgaria including methodology, findings, recommendations, and finally the positive actions and changes that are now underway as a result of the EPA report and intervention aimed at contributing towards improving Bulgarian mental health services.
After meetings with multiple stakeholders in the Bulgarian mental health system and analysis of data on service delivery, workforce, funding and configuration the EPA Panel agreed a list of twenty recommendations for change.
The EPA mission, with the collaboration of multiple stakeholders in Bulgaria, was successful in stimulating high level government action to improve mental health services. Despite longstanding differences, it was possible to involve the stakeholders in constructive dialogue. The importance of “speaking with one voice” was a key lesson learned.
Schizophrenia is a leading cause of disability. People living with schizophrenia (PLWS) present unemployment, social isolation, excess mortality and morbidity, and poor quality of life. Early recognition and appropriate treatment reduce the risk of chronicity and comorbidity. Personalization and integration of pharmacological and psychosocial interventions, as well as accurate identification and management of psychiatric and somatic comorbidities, can significantly improve mental and physical health of PLWS, promoting recovery.
A three-step Delphi approach was used to explore consensus on the essential components of early recognition and intervention, personalization, and integration of care to improve schizophrenia outcome, and on barriers and challenges to close treatment gaps. The consensus involved 8 Italian experts of schizophrenia, 100 psychiatrists from academic and nonacademic settings, including representatives of Italian Society of Psychiatry, and 65 trainees in psychiatry.
A strong consensus (from mostly agree to totally agree) emerged on the importance of early diagnosis (97%), standardized assessments (91%), correct management of somatic and psychiatric comorbidities (99%), and personalization and integration of care (94%). Lack of time, human resources, and training were identified as the main barriers and challenges to the translation of knowledge into clinical practice.
The results of this Delphi study demonstrated a strong consensus on main components of schizophrenia care, as well as on unmet needs to promote best practice and gaps between knowledge and clinical practice. The involvement of a large group of professionals and trainees in this in-depth consensus process might contribute to raise awareness and stimulate innovative strategies to improve the outcome of PLWS.
Negative symptoms in schizophrenia are heterogeneous and multidimensional; effective treatments are lacking. Cariprazine, a dopamine D3-preferring D3/D2 receptor partial agonist and serotonin 5-HT1A receptor partial agonist, was significantly more effective than risperidone in treating negative symptoms in a prospectively designed trial in patients with schizophrenia and persistent, predominant negative symptoms.
Using post hoc analyses, we evaluated change from baseline at week 26 in individual items of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and PANSS-derived factor models using a mixed-effects model for repeated measures (MMRM) in the intent-to-treat (ITT) population (cariprazine = 227; risperidone = 227).
Change from baseline was significantly different in favor of cariprazine versus risperidone on PANSS items N1-N5 (blunted affect, emotional withdrawal, poor rapport, passive/apathetic social withdrawal, difficulty in abstract thinking) (P <.05), but not on N6 (lack of spontaneity/flow of conversation) or N7 (stereotyped thinking). On all PANSS-derived negative symptom factor models evaluated (PANSS-Factor Score for Negative Symptoms, Liemburg factors, Khan factors, Pentagonal Structure Model Negative Symptom factor), statistically significant improvement was demonstrated for cariprazine versus risperidone (P <.01). Small and similar changes in positive/depressive/EPS symptoms suggested that negative symptom improvement was not pseudospecific. Change from baseline was significantly different for cariprazine versus risperidone on PANSS-based factors evaluating other relevant symptom domains (disorganized thoughts, prosocial function, cognition; P <.05).
Since items representing different negative symptom dimensions may represent different fundamental pathophysiological mechanisms, significant improvement versus risperidone on most PANSS Negative Subscale items and across all PANSS-derived factors suggests broad-spectrum efficacy for cariprazine in treating negative symptoms of schizophrenia.