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Neuroanatomical abnormalities in first-episode psychosis (FEP) tend to be subtle and widespread. The vast majority of previous studies have used small samples, and therefore may have been underpowered. In addition, most studies have examined participants at a single research site, and therefore the results may be specific to the local sample investigated. Consequently, the findings reported in the existing literature are highly heterogeneous. This study aimed to overcome these issues by testing for neuroanatomical abnormalities in individuals with FEP that are expressed consistently across several independent samples.
Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging data were acquired from a total of 572 FEP and 502 age and gender comparable healthy controls at five sites. Voxel-based morphometry was used to investigate differences in grey matter volume (GMV) between the two groups. Statistical inferences were made at p < 0.05 after family-wise error correction for multiple comparisons.
FEP showed a widespread pattern of decreased GMV in fronto-temporal, insular and occipital regions bilaterally; these decreases were not dependent on anti-psychotic medication. The region with the most pronounced decrease – gyrus rectus – was negatively correlated with the severity of positive and negative symptoms.
This study identified a consistent pattern of fronto-temporal, insular and occipital abnormalities in five independent FEP samples; furthermore, the extent of these alterations is dependent on the severity of symptoms and duration of illness. This provides evidence for reliable neuroanatomical alternations in FEP, expressed above and beyond site-related differences in anti-psychotic medication, scanning parameters and recruitment criteria.
Positive symptoms are a useful predictor of aggression in schizophrenia. Although a similar pattern of abnormal brain structures related to both positive symptoms and aggression has been reported, this observation has not yet been confirmed in a single sample.
To study the association between positive symptoms and aggression in schizophrenia on a neurobiological level, a prospective meta-analytic approach was employed to analyze harmonized structural neuroimaging data from 10 research centers worldwide. We analyzed brain MRI scans from 902 individuals with a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia and 952 healthy controls.
The result identified a widespread cortical thickness reduction in schizophrenia compared to their controls. Two separate meta-regression analyses revealed that a common pattern of reduced cortical gray matter thickness within the left lateral temporal lobe and right midcingulate cortex was significantly associated with both positive symptoms and aggression.
These findings suggested that positive symptoms such as formal thought disorder and auditory misperception, combined with cognitive impairments reflecting difficulties in deploying an adaptive control toward perceived threats, could escalate the likelihood of aggression in schizophrenia.
Jumping to conclusions (JTC), which is the proneness to require less information before forming beliefs or making a decision, has been related to formation and maintenance of delusions. Using data from the National Institute of Health Research Biomedical Research Centre Genetics and Psychosis (GAP) case–control study of first-episode psychosis (FEP), we set out to test whether the presence of JTC would predict poor clinical outcome at 4 years.
One-hundred and twenty-three FEP patients were assessed with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) and the probabilistic reasoning ‘Beads’ Task at the time of recruitment. The sample was split into two groups based on the presence of JTC bias. Follow-up data over an average of 4 years were obtained concerning clinical course and outcomes (remission, intervention of police, use of involuntary treatment – the Mental Health Act (MHA) – and inpatient days).
FEP who presented JTC at baseline were more likely during the follow-up period to be detained under the MHA [adjusted OR 15.62, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.92–83.54, p = 0.001], require intervention by the police (adjusted OR 14.95, 95% CI 2.68–83.34, p = 0.002) and have longer admissions (adjusted IRR = 5.03, 95% CI 1.91–13.24, p = 0.001). These associations were not accounted for by socio-demographic variables, IQ and symptom dimensions.
JTC in FEP is associated with poorer outcome as indicated and defined by more compulsion police intervention and longer periods of admission. Our findings raise the question of whether the implementation of specific interventions to reduce JTC, such as Metacognition Training, may be a useful addition in early psychosis intervention programmes.
Converging lines of evidence implicate an important role for the immune system in schizophrenia. Microglia are the resident immune cells of the central nervous system and have many functions including neuroinflammation, axonal guidance and neurotrophic support. We aimed to provide a quantitative review of in vivo PET imaging studies of microglia activation in patients with schizophrenia compared with healthy controls.
Demographic, clinical and imaging measures were extracted from each study and meta-analysis was conducted using a random-effects model (Hedge's g). The difference in 18-kDa translocator protein (TSPO) binding between patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls, as quantified by either binding potential (BP) or volume of distribution (VT), was used as the main outcome. Sub-analysis and sensitivity analysis were carried out to investigate the effects of genotype, ligand and illness stage.
In total, 12 studies comprising 190 patients with schizophrenia and 200 healthy controls met inclusion criteria. There was a significant elevation in tracer binding in schizophrenia patients relative to controls when BP was used as an outcome measure, (Hedge's g = 0.31; p = 0.03) but no significant differences when VT was used (Hedge's g = −0.22; p = 0.29).
In conclusion, there is evidence for moderate elevations in TSPO tracer binding in grey matter relative to other brain tissue in schizophrenia when using BP as an outcome measure, but no difference when VT is the outcome measure. We discuss the relevance of these findings as well as the methodological issues that may underlie the contrasting difference between these outcomes.
There is no consensus as to whether magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) should be used as part of the initial clinical evaluation of patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP).
(a) To assess the logistical feasibility of routine MRI; (b) to define the clinical significance of radiological abnormalities in patients with FEP.
Radiological reports from MRI scans of two FEP samples were reviewed; one comprised 108 patients and 98 healthy controls recruited to a research study and the other comprised 241 patients scanned at initial clinical presentation plus 66 healthy controls.
In the great majority of patients, MRI was logistically feasible. Radiological abnormalities were reported in 6% of the research sample and in 15% of the clinical sample (odds ratio (OR) = 3.1, 95% CI 1.26–7.57, χ2(1) = 6.63, P = 0.01). None of the findings necessitated a change in clinical management.
Rates of neuroradiological abnormalities in FEP are likely to be underestimated in research samples that often exclude patients with organic abnormalities. However, the majority of findings do not require intervention.
Sexual dysfunction is common in psychotic disorder but it is not clear
whether it is intrinsic to the development of the illness or secondary to
To compare sexual function in people at ultra-high risk (UHR) of a
psychotic disorder, patients with first-episode psychosis predominantly
taking antipsychotic drugs and healthy volunteers.
Sexual function was assessed in a UHR group (n = 31), a
group with first-episode psychosis (n = 37) and a
matched control group of healthy volunteers (n = 56)
using the Sexual Function Questionnaire.
There was a significant effect of group on sexual function
(P<0.001). Sexual dysfunction was evident in 50%
of the UHR group, 65% of first-episode patients and 21% of controls.
Within the UHR group, sexual dysfunction was more marked in those who
subsequently developed psychosis than in those who did not. Across all
groups the severity of sexual dysfunction was correlated with the
severity of psychotic symptoms (P<0.001). Within the
first-episode group there was no significant difference in sexual
dysfunction between patients taking prolactin-raising v.
Sexual dysfunction is present prior to onset of psychosis, suggesting it
is intrinsic to the development of illness unlikely to be related to the
prolactin-raising properties of antipsychotic medication.
People who use cannabis have an increased risk of psychosis an effect attributed to the active ingredient δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC). There has recently been concern over an increase in the concentration of Δ9-THC in the cannabis available in many countries.
To investigate whether people with a first episode of psychosis were particularly likely to use high-potency cannabis.
We collected information on cannabis use from 280 cases presenting with a first episode of psychosis to the South London & Maudsley National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, and from 174 healthy controls recruited from the local population.
There was no significant difference between cases and controls in whether they had ever taken cannabis, or age at first use. However, those in the cases group were more likely to be current daily users (OR = 6.4) and to have smoked cannabis for more than 5 years (OR = 2.1). Among those who used cannabis, 78% of the cases group used high-potency cannabis (sinsemilla, ‘skunk’) compared with 37% of the control group (OR 6.8).
The finding that people with a first episode of psychosis had smoked higher-potency cannabis, for longer and with greater frequency, than a healthy control group is consistent with the hypothesis that Δ9-THC is the active ingredient increasing risk of psychosis. This has important public health implications, given the increased availability and use of high-potency cannabis.
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