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Schizophrenia is a highly heritable disorder with undetermined neurobiological causes. Understanding the impact on brain anatomy of carrying genetic risk for the disorder will contribute to uncovering its neurobiological underpinnings.
To examine the effect of rare copy number variants (CNVs) associated with schizophrenia on brain cortical anatomy in a sample of unaffected participants from the UK Biobank.
We used regression analyses to compare cortical thickness and surface area (total and across gyri) between 120 unaffected carriers of rare CNVs associated with schizophrenia and 16 670 participants without any pathogenic CNV. A measure of cortical thickness and surface area covariance across gyri was also compared between groups.
Carrier status was associated with reduced surface area (β = −0.020 mm2, P < 0.001) and less robustly with increased cortical thickness (β = 0.015 mm, P = 0.035), and with increased covariance in thickness (carriers z = 0.31 v. non-carriers z = 0.22, P < 0.0005). Associations were mainly present in frontal and parietal areas and driven by a limited number of rare risk alleles included in our analyses (mainly 15q11.2 deletion for surface area and 16p13.11 duplication for thickness covariance).
Results for surface area conformed with previous clinical findings, supporting surface area reductions as an indicator of genetic liability for schizophrenia. Results for cortical thickness, though, argued against its validity as a potential risk marker. Increased structural thickness covariance across gyri also appears related to risk for schizophrenia. The heterogeneity found across the effects of rare risk alleles suggests potential different neurobiological gateways into schizophrenia's phenotype.
A growing body of research suggests that childhood adversities are associated with later psychosis, broadly defined. However, there remain several gaps and unanswered questions. Most studies are of low-level psychotic experiences and findings cannot necessarily be extrapolated to psychotic disorders. Further, few studies have examined the effects of more fine-grained dimensions of adversity such as type, timing and severity.
Using detailed data from the Childhood Adversity and Psychosis (CAPsy) study, we sought to address these gaps and examine in detail associations between a range of childhood adversities and psychotic disorder.
CAPsy is population-based first-episode psychosis case–control study in the UK. In a sample of 374 cases and 301 controls, we collected extensive data on childhood adversities, in particular household discord, various forms of abuse and bullying, and putative confounders, including family history of psychotic disorder, using validated, semi-structured instruments.
We found strong evidence that all forms of childhood adversity were associated with around a two- to fourfold increased odds of psychotic disorder and that exposure to multiple adversities was associated with a linear increase in odds. We further found that severe forms of adversity, i.e. involving threat, hostility and violence, were most strongly associated with increased odds of disorder. More tentatively, we found that some adversities (e.g. bullying, sexual abuse) were more strongly associated with psychotic disorder if first occurrence was in adolescence.
Our findings extend previous research on childhood adversity and suggest a degree of specificity for severe adversities involving threat, hostility and violence.
Many cognitive functions are under strong genetic control and twin studies have demonstrated genetic overlap between some aspects of cognition and schizophrenia. How the genetic relationship between specific cognitive functions and schizophrenia is influenced by IQ is currently unknown.
We applied selected tests from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) to examine the heritability of specific cognitive functions and associations with schizophrenia liability. Verbal and performance IQ were estimated using The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III and the Danish Adult Reading Test. In total, 214 twins including monozygotic (MZ = 32) and dizygotic (DZ = 22) pairs concordant or discordant for a schizophrenia spectrum disorder, and healthy control pairs (MZ = 29, DZ = 20) were recruited through the Danish national registers. Additionally, eight twins from affected pairs participated without their sibling.
Significant heritability was observed for planning/spatial span (h2 = 25%), self-ordered spatial working memory (h2 = 64%), sustained attention (h2 = 56%), and movement time (h2 = 47%), whereas only unique environmental factors contributed to set-shifting, reflection impulsivity, and thinking time. Schizophrenia liability was associated with planning/spatial span (rph = −0.34), self-ordered spatial working memory (rph = −0.24), sustained attention (rph = −0.23), and set-shifting (rph = −0.21). The association with planning/spatial span was not driven by either performance or verbal IQ. The remaining associations were shared with performance, but not verbal IQ.
This study provides further evidence that some cognitive functions are heritable and associated with schizophrenia, suggesting a partially shared genetic etiology. These functions may constitute endophenotypes for the disorder and provide a basis to explore genes common to cognition and schizophrenia.
Uncertainty exists about what causes brain structure alterations associated with schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD). Whether a history of asphyxia-related obstetric complication (ASP) – a common but harmful condition for neural tissue – contributes to variations in adult brain structure is unclear. We investigated ASP and its relationship to intracranial (ICV), global brain volumes and regional cortical and subcortical structures.
A total of 311 patients on the SZ – BD spectrum and 218 healthy control (HC) participants underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging. They were evaluated for ASP using prospective information obtained from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway.
In all groups, ASP was related to smaller ICV, total brain, white and gray matter volumes and total surface area, but not to cortical thickness. Smaller cortical surface areas were found across frontal, parietal, occipital, temporal and insular regions. Smaller hippocampal, amygdala, thalamus, caudate and putamen volumes were reported for all ASP subgroups. ASP effects did not survive ICV correction, except in the caudate, which remained significantly smaller in both patient ASP subgroups, but not in the HC.
Since ASP was associated with smaller brain volumes in all groups, the genetic risk of developing a severe mental illness, alone, cannot easily explain the smaller ICV. Only the smaller caudate volumes of ASP patients specifically suggest that injury from ASP can be related to disease development. Our findings give support for the ICV as a marker of aberrant neurodevelopment and ASP in the etiology of brain development in BD and SZ.
Schizotypy is a putative risk phenotype for psychosis liability, but the overlap of its genetic architecture with schizophrenia is poorly understood.
We tested the hypothesis that dimensions of schizotypy (assessed with the SPQ-B) are associated with a polygenic risk score (PRS) for schizophrenia in a sample of 623 psychiatrically healthy, non-clinical subjects from the FOR2107 multi-centre study and a second sample of 1133 blood donors.
We did not find correlations of schizophrenia PRS with either overall SPQ or specific dimension scores, nor with adjusted schizotypy scores derived from the SPQ (addressing inter-scale variance). Also, PRS for affective disorders (bipolar disorder and major depression) were not significantly associated with schizotypy.
This important negative finding demonstrates that despite the hypothesised continuum of schizotypy and schizophrenia, schizotypy might share less genetic risk with schizophrenia than previously assumed (and possibly less compared to psychotic-like experiences).
This study aimed to evaluate associations between toxoplasmosis and psychiatric disorders in Taiwan based on the National Health Insurance Research Database, Taiwan (1997–2013). Patients newly diagnosed with toxoplasmosis formed the case group (n = 259), and the control group included propensity-score matched patients without toxoplasmosis (n = 1036). The primary outcome was incidence of psychiatric disorders. Cox proportional hazards regression and stratified analyses were performed to examine risk of developing specific psychiatric disorders between patients with and without toxoplasmosis. Patients with toxoplasmosis had significantly higher incidence of psychiatric disorders than those without toxoplasmosis (P = 0.016). A significant difference was found in numbers of psychiatric disorders between the two groups during 14 years of follow-up (log-rank P < 0.001). Those with toxoplasmosis had significantly higher risk of bipolar disorder [adjusted hazard ratio (aHR = 3.60, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 2.07, 7.26), depression (aHR = 4.94, 95% CI = 2.15, 11.80) and anxiety (aHR = 5.36, 95% CI = 2.98, 25.88), but no significant between-group differences were found for schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. In conclusion, the present nationwide population-based analysis revealed that Toxoplasma gondii infection in Taiwan significantly increases the risk for developing bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, but not for schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.
Around two-thirds of patients with auditory hallucinations experience derogatory and threatening voices (DTVs). Understandably, when these voices are believed then common consequences can be depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. There is a need for treatment targeted at promoting distance from such voice content. The first step in this treatment development is to understand why patients listen to and believe voices that are appraised as malevolent.
To learn from patients their reasons for listening to and believing DTVs.
Theoretical sampling was used to recruit 15 participants with non-affective psychosis from NHS services who heard daily DTVs. Data were obtained by semi-structured interviews and analysed using grounded theory.
Six higher-order categories for why patients listen and/or believe voices were theorised. These were: (i) to understand the voices (e.g. what is their motive?); (ii) to be alert to the threat (e.g. prepared for what might happen); (iii) a normal instinct to rely on sensory information; (iv) the voices can be of people they know; (v) the DTVs use strategies (e.g. repetition) to capture attention; and (vi) patients feel so worn down it is hard to resist the voice experience (e.g. too mentally defeated to dismiss comments). In total, 21 reasons were identified, with all participants endorsing multiple reasons.
The study generated a wide range of reasons why patients listen to and believe DTVs. Awareness of these reasons can help clinicians understand the patient experience and also identify targets in psychological intervention.
Around 30% of patients with schizophrenia are considered treatment resistant (TRS). Only around 40% of TRS patients respond to clozapine. Long acting injectable antipsychotics could be a useful augmentation strategy for nonresponders.
We conducted a multicenter, observational, naturalistic, retrospective, 6-month mirror-image study to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of clozapine and paliperidone palmitate association in 50 patients with TRS and other psychotic disorders. Clinical outcomes and side effects were systematically assessed.
Six months after starting the combined treatment, participants showed a significant relief of symptoms, decreasing the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale total score from 18.32 ± 7.71 to 7.84 ± 5.16 (p < 0.001). The number of hospitalizations, the length of hospital stays and the number of visits to emergency services also decreased, while an increase of the functionality was observed (Personal and Social Performance total score increased from 46.06 ± 118.7 to 60.86 ± 18.68, p < 0.001). There was also a significant decrease in the number and severity of side effects with the combination therapy, decreasing the Udvalg for Kliniske Undersogelser total score from 10.76 ± 8.04 to 8.82 ± 6.63 (p = 0.004).
This study provides the first evidence that combining clozapine with paliperidone palmitate in patients with TRS and other psychotic disorders could be effective and safe, suggesting further research with randomized controlled trials of augmentation strategies for clozapine nonresponder patients.
Policy Significance Statement:
Patients with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia show a variable response to antipsychotic treatments. Around 30% of patients are considered treatment resistant, indicated by insufficient symptom control to at least two different drugs. In these resistant cases, clozapine should be indicated, as it has shown to be superior to other options. However, only 40% of patients respond to clozapine, being necessary to establish which treatments could best potentiate clozapine action. Combining clozapine with long acting injectable antipsychotics, and particularly paliperidone palmitate, could be a useful strategy. We conducted a multicenter study of 50 patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders comparing the efficacy and tolerability in the 6 month-period prior and after starting the clozapine and paliperidone palmitate association. Our study suggests that this combination could be effective and safer, laying the groundwork for future clinical trials with this combination.
Despite a sizable minority of persons with serious mental illness (SMI) acting aggressively toward family members, little is known about this topic. The objectives of the present analyses are to examine the association of offenders' SMI status with offender behaviors and victim outcomes and to compare the immediate contextual characteristics of incidents involving offenders with and without SMI.
Using a cross-sectional design, all incidents of domestic violence to which police were called between adult children and their parents in Philadelphia, PA, in 2013 (N = 6191) were analyzed. Additionally, incidents in which the offender was indicated to have SMI (n = 327) were matched with a sample of incidents in which the offender was not indicated to have SMI (n = 327).
Offenders having SMI was not associated with using a bodily weapon or gun, threatening victims, or damaging property. Offenders having SMI was associated with a decreased risk of offenders using a non-gun external weapon and victims being observed to have a complaint of pain or visible injuries. When offenders had SMI, conflict was less likely to focus on family issues and more likely to focus on offenders' behaviors and to involve contextual characteristics related to mental illness.
Efforts to prevent gun and other violence between non-intimate partner family members should target factors more strongly associated with violence than SMI (e.g. history of domestic violence, substance abuse). Intervening in family aggression by persons with SMI likely requires addressing unique circumstances these parties experience.
evaluated the involvement of NLRP3 inflammasome in schizophrenia-like behavior in young animals exposed to MIA.
To this aim, on the 15th gestational day, the females received an injection of lipopolysaccharides. When the animals completed 7, 14 and 45 postnatal days, they were killed and the whole brain was dissected for biochemical analysis. Animals with 45 postnatal days were submitted to behavioral tests of locomotor activity, social interaction and stereotyped movements.
It was observed that the animals presented schizophrenia-like behavior at 45 postnatal days associated to the increased of NLRP3 inflammasome expression and IL-1β levels on 7, 14 and 45 postnatal days.
This study show that MIA may be associated with a schizophrenia-like behavior. This behavior can be induced to a neuroinflamatory profile in brain. These evidences may base future studies on the relationship between neuroinflammation and psychiatric disorders.
Individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to smoke and less likely to quit smoking than those without schizophrenia. Because task persistence is lower in smokers with than without schizophrenia, it is possible that lower levels of task persistence may contribute to greater difficulties in quitting smoking observed among smokers with schizophrenia.
To develop a feasible and acceptable intervention for smokers with schizophrenia.
Participants (N = 24) attended eight weekly individual cognitive behavioral therapy sessions for tobacco use disorder with a focus on increasing task persistence and received 10 weeks of nicotine patch.
In total, 93.8% of participants rated the intervention as at least a 6 out of 7 regarding how ‘easy to understand’ it was and 81.3% rated the treatment as at least a 6 out of 7 regarding how helpful it was to them. A total of 62.5% attended at least six of the eight sessions and session attendance was positively related to nicotine dependence and age and negatively related to self-efficacy for quitting.
This intervention was feasible and acceptable to smokers with schizophrenia. Future research will examine questions appropriate for later stages of therapy development such as initial efficacy of the intervention and task persistence as a mediator of treatment outcome.
Homicide rates have fallen markedly in the UK over the past decade. There has been little research on whether homicides by people with mental disorder have contributed to this downward trend. Furthermore, there is limited information on trends in court outcomes for people with mental disorder who commit homicide.
To examine trends in general population homicide and homicide by people with mental disorder, and to explore court outcome.
We conducted a national, consecutive case series of homicide in England and Wales (1997–2015). Data were received from the Home Office Statistics Unit of Home Office Science. Clinical information was obtained from psychiatric reports and mental health services.
There has been a fall in the homicide rate in England and Wales since 2008. Despite this, the relative contribution of mental disorder as a proportion of all homicide has increased. Our findings also showed the inappropriate management of people with serious mental illness convicted of homicide. Of those who committed homicide and were diagnosed with schizophrenia, a third were imprisoned, and there was a marked fall in hospital order referrals. We found this to be linked to substance misuse comorbidity.
The proportional increase in homicide by people with schizophrenia suggests more complex factors may be driving rates, such as substance misuse. Addressing substance misuse comorbidity and maintaining engagement with services may help prevent patient homicide. Despite their complex needs, people with serious mental illness continue to be imprisoned. Improvements in assessment and the timely transfer of prisoners to health services are required.
Clozapine is uniquely effective in treatment-resistant psychosis but remains underutilised, partly owing to psychotic symptoms leading to non-adherence to oral medication. An intramuscular formulation is available in the UK but outcomes remain unexplored.
This was a retrospective clinical effectiveness study of intramuscular clozapine prescription for treatment initiation and maintenance in treatment-resistant psychosis over a 3-year period.
Successful initiation of oral clozapine after intramuscular prescription was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included all-cause clozapine discontinuation 2 years following initiation, and 1 year after discharge. Discontinuation rates were compared with a cohort prescribed only oral clozapine. Propensity scores were used to address confounding by indication.
Among 39 patients prescribed intramuscular clozapine, 19 received at least one injection, whereas 20 accepted oral clozapine when given an enforced choice between the two. Thirty-six (92%) patients successfully initiated oral clozapine after intramuscular prescription; three never transitioned to oral. Eight discontinued oral clozapine during the 2-year follow-up, compared with 83 out of 162 in the comparator group (discontinuation rates of 24% and 50%, respectively). Discontinuation rates at 1-year post-discharge were 21%, compared with 44% in the comparison group. Intramuscular clozapine prescription was associated with a non-significantly lower hazard of discontinuation 2 years after initiation (hazard ratio 0.39, 95% CI 0.14–1.06) and 1 year after discharge (hazard ratio 0.37, 95% CI 0.11–1.24). The only reported adverse event specific to the intramuscular formulation was injection site pain and swelling.
Intramuscular clozapine prescription allowed transition to oral maintenance in an initially non-adherent cohort. Discontinuation rates were similar to patients only prescribed oral clozapine and comparable to existing literature.
Primary deficit schizophrenia (DS) is characterized by enduring negative symptoms and represents a qualitatively different disease entity with respect to non-deficit schizophrenia (NDS). No studies investigated the association between the enzyme paraoxonase 1 (PON1) and DS and its phenomenology.
In this case-control study, Thai women and men, aged 18 to 65 years, were divided in DS (n = 40) and NDS (n = 40) and were compared to controls (n = 40). PON1 activities against 4-(chloromethyl)phenyl acetate (CMPA) and phenylacetate were determined. Moreover, subjects were genotyped for their PON1 Q192R polymorphism and immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels responses directed to Gram-negative bacteria were measured.
DS is significantly associated with the QQ genotype and the Q allele as compared with NDS and controls. PON1 activities are significantly and inversely associated with negative symptoms, formal thought disorders, psychomotor retardation, excitation and DS. The presence of the Q allele is associated with increased IgA responses to Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Morganella morganii, and Pseudomonas putida as compared with RR carriers.
The PON1 Q allele and lower PON1 activities especially against CMPA are associated with DS, indicating lowered quorum quenching abilities as well as lowered defenses against lipoperoxidation and immune activation. It is suggested that lowered PON1 activity in DS constitutes an impairment in the innate immune system which together with lowered natural IgM may cause lower immune regulation thereby predisposing toward greater neurotoxic effects of immune-inflammatory, oxidative and nitrosative pathways and Gram-negative microbiota.
The link between schizophrenia and cigarette smoking has been well established through observational studies. However, the cause–effect relationship remains unclear.
We conducted Mendelian randomisation analyses to assess any causal relationship between genetic variants related to four smoking-related traits and the risk of schizophrenia.
We performed a two-sample Mendelian randomisation using summary statistics from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of smoking-related traits and schizophrenia (7711 cases, 18 327 controls) in East Asian populations. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) correlated with smoking behaviours (smoking initiation, smoking cessation, age at smoking initiation and quantity of smoking) were investigated in relation to schizophrenia using the inverse-variance weighted (IVW) method. Further sensitivity analyses, including Mendelian randomisation-Egger (MR-Egger), weighted median estimates and leave-one-out analysis, were used to test the consistency of the results.
The associated SNPs for the four smoking behaviours were not significantly associated with schizophrenia status. Pleiotropy did not inappropriately affect the results.
Cigarette smoking is a complex behaviour in people with schizophrenia. Understanding factors underlying the observed association remains important; however, our findings do not support a causal role of smoking in influencing risk of schizophrenia.
Psychiatric disorders provide unique insights into imagination, because they represent extremes of evolved adaptations and trade-offs. I review imagination in the two main sets of disorders of human social and imaginative cognition: the autism spectrum and the psychotic affective spectrum. To do so, I first operationally define imagination in terms of its components, then discuss how seven major aspects of imagination – pretend play, creativity, narrative and the arts, mental time travel, salience, mental imagery and sensory systems, and neural system instantiating it – are altered in autism and psychotic-affective spectrum conditions, mainly with reference to schizophrenia. I then relate fluid intelligence to imagination, and both of them to autism and schizophrenia, genetically and phenotypically. By this narrative review, the autism spectrum involves, overall, lower imagination (and higher aspects of intelligence), while schizophrenia involves higher aspects of imagination (but lower intelligence). Autism and psychotic-affective disorders provide novel opportunities to analyze the causes and consequences of increased, and reduced, imagination, with direct implications for mental-disorder therapies, and enhancements of imagination and creativity among relatively neurotypical individuals.
Kurt Schneider introduced in the definition of the first-rank symptoms (FRS) the criterion that, where unequivocally present, the FRS are always psychological primaries and irreducible. This criterion, grounded on ‘phenomenology’ (description of subjective experiences), cannot be applied, according to Schneider, to delusions, either two-stage FRS delusional perception, or second-rank delusional notions. The Schneider's key criterion was neglected since the initial adoption of the ‘Schneider's FRS’ in the subsequent international literature (e.g. PSE, RDC, DSM, and ICD). The ‘Schneider's FRS’ (e.g. thought insertion, thought withdrawal, passivity, and influence) were persistently equivocated as ‘delusions’, in spite of the Schneider's FRS exclusion criterion. The internationally equivocated ‘Schneider's FRS’ (only homonymous of the original ‘Schneider's FRS’), were eliminated in the DSM-5 and de-emphasized in ICD-11. However, the diagnostic value of the original ‘Schneider's FRS’, assessed on the basis of the strict compliance with the Schneider's criterion for their definition, was never determined. The ‘damnatio memoriae’ of the original Schneider's FRS may be premature. The definition and assessment of the ‘experienced’ symptoms of schizophrenia, only directly observed and reported by the patients, represent a specific, crucial, irreplaceable domain of psychopathology, to be carefully distinguished from the domain of the ‘behavioral’ symptoms observed by the clinician. Contemporary psychopathology research is aware of the absolute need for psychiatry to enhance precision and exactness in the definition of the experienced symptoms of schizophrenia, through the formulation of unequivocal inclusion and exclusion criteria (descriptive micro-psychopathology), in order to determine their value in research and care.
It is not clear to what extent associations between schizophrenia, cannabis use and cigarette use are due to a shared genetic etiology. We, therefore, examined whether schizophrenia genetic risk associates with longitudinal patterns of cigarette and cannabis use in adolescence and mediating pathways for any association to inform potential reduction strategies.
Associations between schizophrenia polygenic scores and longitudinal latent classes of cigarette and cannabis use from ages 14 to 19 years were investigated in up to 3925 individuals in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Mediation models were estimated to assess the potential mediating effects of a range of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral phenotypes.
The schizophrenia polygenic score, based on single nucleotide polymorphisms meeting a training-set p threshold of 0.05, was associated with late-onset cannabis use (OR = 1.23; 95% CI = 1.08,1.41), but not with cigarette or early-onset cannabis use classes. This association was not mediated through lower IQ, victimization, emotional difficulties, antisocial behavior, impulsivity, or poorer social relationships during childhood. Sensitivity analyses adjusting for genetic liability to cannabis or cigarette use, using polygenic scores excluding the CHRNA5-A3-B4 gene cluster, or basing scores on a 0.5 training-set p threshold, provided results consistent with our main analyses.
Our study provides evidence that genetic risk for schizophrenia is associated with patterns of cannabis use during adolescence. Investigation of pathways other than the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral phenotypes examined here is required to identify modifiable targets to reduce the public health burden of cannabis use in the population.
There is mounting evidence to implicate the intrauterine environment as the initial pathogenic stage for neuropsychiatric disease. Recent developments in magnetic resonance imaging technology are making a multimodal analysis of the fetal central nervous system a reality, allowing analysis of structural and functional parameters. Exposures to a range of pertinent risk factors whether preconception or in utero can now be indexed using imaging techniques within the fetus’ physiological environment. This approach may determine the first “hit” required for diseases that do not become clinically manifest until adulthood, and which only have subtle clinical markers during childhood and adolescence. A robust characterization of a “multi-hit” hypothesis may necessitate a longitudinal birth cohort; within this investigative paradigm, the full range of genetic and environmental risk factors can be assessed for their impact on the early developing brain. This will lay the foundation for the identification of novel biomarkers and the ability to devise methods for early risk stratification and disease prevention. However, these early markers must be followed over time: first, to account for neural plasticity, and second, to assess the effects of postnatal exposures that continue to drive the individual toward disease. We explore these issues using the schizophrenia spectrum disorders as an illustrative paradigm. However, given the potential richness of fetal magnetic resonance imaging, and the likely overlap of biomarkers, these concepts may extend to a range of neuropsychiatric conditions.