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Life engagement represents a holistic concept that encompasses outcomes reflecting life-fulfilment, well-being and participation in valued and meaningful activities, which is recently gaining attention and scientific interest. Despite its conceptual importance and its relevance, life engagement represents a largely unexplored domain in schizophrenia. The aims of the present study were to independently assess correlates and predictors of patient life engagement in a large and well-characterized sample of schizophrenia patients.
To assess the impact of different demographic, clinical, cognitive and functional parameters on life engagement in a large sample of patients with schizophrenia, data from the social cognition psychometric evaluation project were analyzed.
Overall schizophrenia and depressive symptom severity, premorbid IQ, neurocognitive performance, social cognition performance both in the emotion processing and theory of mind domains, functional capacity, social skills performance and real-world functioning in different areas all emerged as correlates of patient life engagement. Greater symptom severity and greater impairment in real-world interpersonal relationships, social skills, functional capacity and work outcomes emerged as individual predictors of greater limitations in life engagement.
Life engagement in people living with schizophrenia represents a holistic and complex construct, with several different clinical, cognitive and functional correlates. These features represent potential treatment targets to improve the clinical condition and also facilitate the process of recovery and the overall well-being of people living with schizophrenia.
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.
Acceptability is an important factor for predicting intervention use and potential treatment outcomes in psychosocial interventions. Cognitive remediation (CR) improves cognition and functioning in people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, but its acceptability, and the impact of participants and treatment characteristics, remain to be investigated. Few studies provide a direct measure of acceptability, but treatment drop-out rates are often available and represent a valid surrogate.
The systematic search conducted for the most comprehensive CR outcomes database for schizophrenia was updated in December 2020. Eligible studies were randomized clinical trials comparing CR with any other control condition in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and that also reported drop-out in treatment and control arms separately. Acceptability was measured as odd-ratios (OR) of drop-out.
Of 2119 identified reports, 151 studies, reporting 169 comparisons between CR and control interventions with 10 477 participants were included in the analyses. The overall rate of drop-out was 16.58% for CR programs and 15.21% for control conditions. In the meta-analysis, no difference emerged between CR interventions and controls [OR 1.10, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.96–1.25, p = 0.177]. Factors improving acceptability were: inpatient only recruitment, participants with fewer years of education and lower premorbid IQ, the presence of all CR core elements, and the presence of techniques to transfer cognitive gains into real-world functioning.
CR for people diagnosed with schizophrenia is effective and has a good acceptability profile, similar to that of other evidence-based psychosocial interventions.
During adolescence and young adulthood people appear to be more prone to violent behaviour. A greater tendency to violent behaviour appears to be associated with hyperactivity, impulsivity and low tolerance for frustration and provocation in social settings.
This prospective cohort study aimed to evaluate rates of violent behaviour among young people with mental disorders, compared with older age groups.
A total of 340 individuals with severe mental disorders (125 living in residential facilities and 215 out-patients) were evaluated at baseline with the SCID-I and II, Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, Specific Level of Functioning scale, Brown–Goodwin Lifetime History of Aggression scale, Buss–Durkee Hostility Inventory, Barratt Impulsiveness Scale and State–Trait Anger Expression Inventory-2. Aggressive behaviour was rated every 15 days with the Modified Overt Aggression Scale (MOAS).
The sample comprised 28 individuals aged 18–29 years, 202 aged 30–49 and 110 aged 50 and over. Younger age was associated with a personality disorder diagnosis, substance use disorder, being single and employed. These results were confirmed even controlling for the gender effect. The patterns of the cumulative MOAS mean scores showed that younger (18–29 years old) individuals were significantly more aggressive than older (≥50) ones (P < 0.001).
This study highlights how young age in people with severe mental disorders is correlated with higher levels of impulsivity, anger and hostility, confirming previous analyses. Our results may assist clinicians in implementing early interventions to improve anger and impulsivity control to reduce the risk of future aggressive behaviours.
Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWASs) have identified several genes associated with Schizophrenia (SCZ) and exponentially increased knowledge on the genetic basis of the disease. In addition, products of GWAS genes interact with neuronal factors coded by genes lacking association, such that this interaction may confer risk for specific phenotypes of this brain disorder. In this regard, fragile X mental retardation syndrome-related 1 (FXR1) gene has been GWAS associated with SCZ. FXR1 protein is regulated by glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK3β), which has been implicated in pathophysiology of SCZ and response to antipsychotics (APs). rs496250 and rs12630592, two eQTLs (Expression Quantitative Trait Loci) of FXR1 and GSK3β, respectively, interact on emotion stability and amygdala/prefrontal cortex activity during emotion processing. These two phenotypes are associated with Negative Symptoms (NSs) of SCZ suggesting that the interaction between these SNPs may also affect NS severity and responsiveness to medication.
To test this hypothesis, in two independent samples of patients with SCZ, we investigated rs496250 by rs12630592 interaction on NS severity and response to APs. We also tested a putative link between APs administration and FXR1 expression, as already reported for GSK3β expression.
We found that rs496250 and rs12630592 interact on NS severity. We also found evidence suggesting interaction of these polymorphisms also on response to APs. This interaction was not present when looking at positive and general psychopathology scores. Furthermore, chronic olanzapine administration led to a reduction of FXR1 expression in mouse frontal cortex.
Our findings suggest that, like GSK3β, FXR1 is affected by APs while shedding new light on the role of the FXR1/GSK3β pathway for NSs of SCZ.
Previous researches highlighted among patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) a significant presence of autistic traits, which seem to influence clinical and functional outcomes. The aim of this study was to further deepen the investigation, evaluating how patients with SSD with or without autistic traits may differ with respect to levels of functioning, self-esteem, resilience, and coping profiles.
As part of the add-on autism spectrum study of the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses, 164 outpatients with schizophrenia (SCZ) were recruited at eight Italian University psychiatric clinics. Subjects were grouped depending on the presence of significant autistic traits according to the Adult Autism Subthreshold Spectrum (AdAS Spectrum) instrument (“AT group” vs “No AT group”). Other instruments employed were: Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Specific Levels of Functioning (SLOF), Self-Esteem Rating scale (SERS), Resilience Scale for Adults (RSA), and brief-COPE.
The “AT group” reported significantly higher scores than the “No AT group” on SLOF activities of community living but significantly lower scores on work skills subscale. The same group scored significantly lower also on SERS total score and RSA perception of the self subscale. Higher scores were reported on COPE self-blame, use of emotional support and humor domains in the AT group. Several correlations were found between specific dimensions of the instruments.
Our findings suggest the presence of specific patterns of functioning, resilience, and coping abilities among SSD patients with autistic traits.
Systematic studies about the impact of unilateral brain damage on the different body representations (body schema, body structural representation, and body semantics) are still rare. Aim of this study was to evaluate body representation deficits in a relatively large sample of patients with unilateral brain damage and to investigate the impact of right or left brain damage on body representations (BRs), independently from deficits in other cognitive processes.
Sixty-four patients with unilateral stroke (22 with left brain damage, LBD; 31 with right brain damage without neglect, RBD-N; 11 with right brain damage with neglect, RBD+N) and 41 healthy individuals underwent a specific battery including BR as well as control tasks.
In more than a third of the sample, selective (37.5%) and pure (31%) deficits of BR were presented and equally distributed among the different BRs (˜10% for each representation), with selective (27.2%) and pure (22.7%) body schema deficit mainly presented after left brain damage. As a group, patients with unilateral brain damage, independently of the side of lesion (LBD, RBD-N, RBD+N), had significantly worse performance on body structural representation with respect to healthy individuals, whereas LBD had numerically worse performance on body schema with respect to healthy individuals and RBD-N. No significant differences among groups were found on body semantics.
BR deficits are not a rare consequence of unilateral brain damage and are independent of a more general cognitive dysfunction. Accordingly, the need for an accurate assessment and specific neuropsychological training in clinical settings is discussed.
To perform a meta-analysis of clinical studies on the differences in treatment or research decision-making capacity among patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and healthy comparisons (HCs).
A systematic search was conducted on Medline/Pubmed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and Scopus. Standardized mean differences and random-effects model were used in all cases.
The United States, France, Japan, and China.
Four hundred and ten patients with MCI, 149 with AD, and 368 HCs were included.
The studies we included in the analysis assessed decisional capacity to consent by the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool for Treatment (MAcCAT-T), MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool for Clinical Research (MacCAT-CR), Capacity to Consent to Treatment Instrument (CCTI), and University of California Brief Assessment of Capacity to Consent (UBACC).
We identified 109 potentially eligible studies from 1672 records, and 7 papers were included in the meta-analysis. The meta-analysis showed that there was significant impairment in a decision-making capacity in MCI patients compared to the HCs group in terms of Understanding (SMD = −1.04, 95% CI: −1.31 to −0.77, P < 0.001; I2 = 52%, P = 0.07), Appreciation (SMD = −0.51, 95% CI: −0.66 to −0.36, P < 0.001; I2 = 0%, P = 0.97), and Reasoning (SMD = −0.62, 95% CI: −0.77, −0.47, P < 0.001; I2=0%, P =0.46). MCI patients scored significantly higher in Understanding (SMD = 1.50, 95% CI: 0.91, 2.09, P = 0.01, I2 = 78%, P = 0.00001) compared to patients affected by AD.
Patients affected by MCI are at higher risk of impaired capacity to consent to treatment and research compared to HCs, despite being at lower risk compared to patients affected by AD. Clinicians and researchers need to carefully evaluate decisional capacity in MCI patients providing informed consent.
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.
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.
Comparisons of antipsychotics with placebo can be biased by unblinding due to side effects. Therefore, this meta-analysis compared the efficacy of antipsychotics for acute schizophrenia in trials using barbiturates or benzodiazepines as active placebos.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in acute schizophrenia with at least 3 weeks duration and comparing any antipsychotic with barbiturates or benzodiazepines were eligible. ClinicalTrials.gov, CENTRAL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, PubMed, WHO-ICTRP as well as previous reviews were searched up to 9 January 2018. Two separate meta-analyses, one for barbiturates and one for benzodiazepines, were conducted using random-effects models. The primary outcome was response to treatment, and mean values of schizophrenia rating scales and dropouts were analyzed as secondary outcomes. This study is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42018086263).
Seven barbiturate-RCTs (number of participants n = 1736), and two benzodiazepine-RCTs (n = 76) were included in the analysis. The studies were published between 1960 and 1968 and involved mainly chronically ill patients. More patients on antipsychotics in comparison to barbiturates achieved a ‘good’ response (36.2% v. 16.8%; RR 2.15; 95% CI 1.36–3.41; I2 = 48.9) and ‘any’ response (57.4% v. 27.8%; RR 2.07; 95% CI 1.35–3.18; I2 = 68.2). In a single small trial (n = 60), there was no difference between antipsychotics and benzodiazepines on ‘any’ response (74.7% v. 65%; RR 1.15; 95% CI 0.82–1.62).
Antipsychotic drugs were more efficacious than barbiturates, based on a large sample size. Response ratios were similar to those observed in placebo-controlled trials. The results on benzodiazepines were inconclusive due to the small number of studies and participants.
A remarkable stela from Montoro, southern Spain, is unique in its morphology, epigraphic traits and landscape context. A programme of chemical characterisation, digital imaging, and geo-lithological and epigraphic analyses were conducted to determine its age and significance, and the results were integrated with data from archaeological investigations of the surrounding area. This multi-faceted approach allowed the stela to be interpreted within the context of early interactions between literate Mediterranean societies of the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age and non-literate Iberian societies. A key outcome of this research is a wider understanding of the complex patterns in the use and perception of early scripts.
Although the excess of schizophrenic births in the winter and early spring has been replicated and some non-conclusive work supports the same seasonal birth trend in patients with major affective disorders, the aetiopathogenetic foundations of this phenomenon remain uncertain. The primary role of perinatal seasonal factors that predispose to the development of schizophrenia via induction of brain damage has been invoked, as has a tendency for patients to conceive during the spring and early summer. In order to test these two hypotheses, cerebral ventricular size and cortical atrophy in 206 schizophrenics and 107 patients with major affective disorders were assessed by CT and analysed in relation to month of birth. Compared with schizophrenics born during the remainder of the year, those born between December and April, particularly in cases lacking a family history of schizophrenia, showed increased chances for ventricular enlargement, but not for cortical atrophy. No association between season of birth and central or cortical atrophy was found for patients with major affective disorders. This suggests that the brain-damaging effect played by perinatal seasonal factors has both a disease and an anatomical specificity.
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