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Autistic symptoms represent a frequent feature in schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD). However, the prevalence and the cognitive and functional correlates of autistic symptoms in unaffected first-degree relatives of people with SSD remain to be assessed.
A total of 342 unaffected first-degree relatives related to 247 outpatients with schizophrenia were recruited as part of the multicenter study of the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses (NIRP). Autistic features were measured with the PANSS Autism Severity Scale. Three groups of participants, defined on the presence and severity of autistic symptoms, were compared on a wide array of cognitive and functional measures.
Of the total sample, 44.9% presented autistic symptoms; 22.8% showed moderate levels of autistic symptoms, which can be observed in the majority of people with SSD. Participants with higher levels of autistic symptoms showed worse performance on Working Memory (p = 0.014) and Social Cognition (p = 0.025) domains and in the Global Cognition composite score (p = 0.008), as well as worse on functional capacity (p = 0.001), global psychosocial functioning (p < 0.001), real-world interpersonal relationships (p < 0.001), participation in community activities (p = 0.017), and work skills (p = 0.006).
A high prevalence of autistic symptoms was observed in first-degree relatives of people with SSD. Autistic symptoms severity showed a negative correlation with cognitive performance and functional outcomes also in this population and may represent a diagnostic and treatment target of considerable scientific and clinical interest in both patients and their first-degree relatives.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is an informative factor on body fatness which has been associated to higher levels of Perinatal Depression (PD) and complications during pregnancy. We aimed to explore the impact of pre-pregnancy and postnatal BMI on the risk of Perinatal Depression and pregnancy outcomes among women recruited at their third trimester of pregnancy.
We report on findings from a large multi-centre study conducted in the South of Italy and involving 1611 women accessing three urban gynaecological departments from July to November 2020. Pregnant women were assessed at their third trimester of pregnancy (T0) and after the childbirth (T1) ;The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) has been employed for the screening of PD over time (T0 and T1) as well as other standardized measures for neuroticism, resilience, and quality of life at baseline. BMI (T0 and T1) and other socio-demographic and clinical characteristics have been collected.
Over-weight and obesity (higher levels of BMI) were associated with higher risk of PD (higher scores of EPDS), higher neuroticism and poorer subjective psychological well-being among enrolled women. Also, obesity and over-weight were associated with lower education, higher number of physical comorbidities, medical treatments and complications during pregnancy.
Over-weight and obesity may impact on mental health and pregnancy outcome of women enrolled. Psycho-educational interventions aimed to improve the management of physical and emotional issues may reduce the risk of PD and complications during pregnancy.
Different electrophysiological (EEG) indices have been investigated as possible biomarkers of schizophrenia. However, these indices have a very limited use in clinical practice, as their associations with clinical and functional outcomes remain unclear. This study aimed to investigate the associations of multiple EEG markers with clinical variables and functional outcomes in subjects with schizophrenia (SCZs).
Resting-state EEGs (frequency bands and microstates) and auditory event-related potentials (MMN-P3a and N100-P3b) were recorded in 113 SCZs and 57 healthy controls (HCs) at baseline. Illness- and functioning-related variables were assessed both at baseline and at 4-year follow-up in 61 SCZs. We generated a machine-learning classifier for each EEG parameter (frequency bands, microstates, N100-P300 task, and MMN-P3a task) to identify potential markers discriminating SCZs from HCs, and a global classifier. Associations of the classifiers’ decision scores with illness- and functioning-related variables at baseline and follow-up were then investigated.
The global classifier discriminated SCZs from HCs with an accuracy of 75.4% and its decision scores significantly correlated with negative symptoms, depression, neurocognition, and real-life functioning at 4-year follow-up.
These results suggest that a combination of multiple EEG alterations is associated with poor functional outcomes and its clinical and cognitive determinants in SCZs. These findings need replication, possibly looking at different illness stages in order to implement EEG as a possible tool for the prediction of poor functional outcome.
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.
Abnormal auditory processing of deviant stimuli, as reflected by mismatch negativity (MMN), is often reported in schizophrenia (SCZ). At present, it is still under debate whether this dysfunctional response is specific to the full-blown SCZ diagnosis or rather a marker of psychosis in general. The present study tested MMN in patients with SCZ, bipolar disorder (BD), first episode of psychosis (FEP), and in people at clinical high risk for psychosis (CHR).
Source-based MEG activity evoked during a passive auditory oddball task was recorded from 135 patients grouped according to diagnosis (SCZ, BD, FEP, and CHR) and 135 healthy controls also divided into four subgroups, age- and gender-matched with diagnostic subgroups. The magnetic MMN (mMMN) was analyzed as event-related field (ERF), Theta power, and Theta inter-trial phase coherence (ITPC).
The clinical group as a whole showed reduced mMMN ERF amplitude, Theta power, and Theta ITPC, without any statistically significant interaction between diagnosis and mMMN reductions. The mMMN subgroup contrasts showed lower ERF amplitude in all the diagnostic subgroups. In the analysis of Theta frequency, SCZ showed significant power and ITPC reductions, while only indications of diminished ITPC were observed in CHR, but no significant decreases characterized BD and FEP.
Significant mMMN alterations in people experiencing psychosis, also for diagnoses other than SCZ, suggest that this neurophysiological response may be a feature shared across psychotic disorders. Additionally, reduced Theta ITPC may be associated with risk for psychosis.
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.
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.
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.
Pollutant agents are exponentially increasing in modern society since industrialization processes and technology are being developed worldwide. Impact of pollution on public health is well known but little has been described on the association between environmental pollutants and mental health. A literature search on PubMed and EMBASE has been conducted and 134 articles published on the issue of pollution and mental health have been included, cited, reviewed, and summarized. Emerging evidences have been collected on association between major environmental pollutants (air pollutants, heavy metals, ionizing radiation [IR], organophosphate pesticides, light pollution, noise pollution, environmental catastrophes) and various mental health disorders including anxiety, mood, and psychotic syndromes. Underlying pathogenesis includes direct and indirect effects of these agents on brain, respectively, due to their biological effect on human Central Nervous System or related to some levels of stress generated by the exposure to the pollutant agents over the time. Most of emerging evidences are still nonconclusive. Further studies should clarify how industrial production, the exploitation of certain resources, the proximity to waste and energy residues, noise, and the change in lifestyles are connected with psychological distress and mental health problems for the affected populations.
The possible presence of gender-related differences in patients with bipolar disorder (BD) may have diagnostic and therapeutic implications. This multicenter study aimed to investigate gender differences in BD in the largest Italian database collected to date, on behalf of the Italian Chapter of the International Society of Bipolar Disorders.
A total of 1674 patients (males: n = 714; females: n = 960) from different psychiatric departments were compared according to gender on demographic/clinical variables. Owing to the large number of variables statistically related to the dependent variable (gender) at the univariate analyses, preliminary multiple logistic regression analyses were performed. A final multivariable logistic regression was then performed, considering gender as the dependent variable and statistically significant demographic/clinical characteristics as independent variables.
The results of the final multivariable logistic regression analysis with previous statistically significant demographic and clinical variables were the following: female gender was less frequently associated with employment (odds ratio [OR] = 0.7, P < 0.01), lifetime single marital status (OR = 0.45, P < 0.01), and substance abuse in the last year (OR = 0.35, P < 0.01), whereas it was more frequently associated with a major number of lifetime major depressive episodes (OR = 1.78, P < 0.01) and psychiatric visits in the last year (OR = 1.38, P = 0.01).
Few significant differences were found between genders in BD, particularly for those clinical features that are associated with poor prognosis (substance abuse for males and number of depressive episodes for females). Transcultural studies are needed to identify cultural versus illness-related variables possibly explaining the different clinical presentation of BD in relation to gender.
Aims — To assess in a national sample the ability of GPs to detect psychiatric disorders using a clinical vs. a standardized interview and to characterize the patients that were falsely diagnosed with an anxiety or affective disorder. Methods — This is a national, cross—sectional, epidemiological survey, carried out by GPs on a random sample of their patients. The GPs were randomly divided into two groups. Apart from the routine clinical interview, the experimental group (group A) had to administer the Mini—International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI). Results — Data was collected by 143 GPs. 17.2% of all patients had a clinical diagnosis of an affective disorder, and 25.4% a clinical diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. In group A, the number of clinical diagnoses was about twice that of MINI diagnoses for affective disorders and one and a half times that for anxiety disorders. The majority of clinical diagnoses were represented by MINI subsyndromal cases (52.3%). Females showed a higher OR of being over—detected by GPs with anxiety disorders or of not being diagnosed with an affective disorder. Being divorced/separated/widowed increased the OR of over—detection of affective and anxiety disorders. The OR of over—detection of an affective or an anxiety disorder was higher for individuals with a moderate to poor quality of life. Conclusions — In the primary care a gap exists between clinical and standardized interviews in the detection of affective and anxiety disorders. Some experiential and social factors can increase this tendency. The use of a psycho.
Declaration of Interest: GlaxoSmithKline provided unrestricted economic and organizational support to the study. No further declarations on other form of financing or any other involvement that might be considered a conflict of interest in connection with the submitted article.
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