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The structure of negative symptoms of schizophrenia is still a matter of controversy. Although a two-dimensional model (comprising the expressive deficit dimension and the motivation and pleasure dimension) has gained a large consensus, it has been questioned by recent investigations.
To investigate the latent structure of negative symptoms and its stability over time in people with schizophrenia using network analysis.
Negative symptoms were assessed in 612 people with schizophrenia using the Brief Negative Symptom Scale (BNSS) at baseline and at 4-year follow-up. A network invariance analysis was conducted to investigate changes in the network structure and strength of connections between the two time points.
The network analysis carried out at baseline and follow-up, supported by community detection analysis, indicated that the BNSS's items aggregate to form four or five distinct domains (avolition/asociality, anhedonia, blunted affect and alogia). The network invariance test indicated that the network structure remained unchanged over time (network invariance test score 0.13; P = 0.169), although its overall strength decreased (6.28 at baseline, 5.79 at follow-up; global strength invariance test score 0.48; P = 0.016).
The results lend support to a four- or five-factor model of negative symptoms and indicate overall stability over time. These data have implications for the study of pathophysiological mechanisms and the development of targeted treatments for negative symptoms.
Negative symptoms remain one of the major unmet needs for people with schizophrenia, and the past decade has witnessed a surge in interest in negative symptoms. In this themed issue, we present new concepts of negative symptoms and recent findings on their epidemiology and pathophysiology and on therapeutic options for their management.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Emotional reactivity in infancy and early childhood may play a role in the regulation of brain plasticity and hemispheric organization, which has possible implications vulnerability to psychopathology. Empiric findings demonstrate the role of attachment patterns in emotional reactivity modulation and limbic circuitry shaping.
Abnormalities of brain hemispheric organization have been found in a variety of psychiatric disorders. Despite the great amount of data collected and the number of theoretical models elaborated, the role of these abnormalities in the pathogenesis of these disorders remains controversial. This article briefly reviews current concepts of hemispheric functioning, discusses the role of abnormalities of brain hemispheric organization in schizophrenia and in two anxiety disorders (panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder), and outlines a developmental perspective that accounts for the observed abnormalities.
The present paper is aimed at providing an outline of the process of reconceptualization of cognitive functions and emotions in neuropsychology, recently promoted by the acknowledgment of complex, nonlinear dynamics in brain structure and function.
Aims — The present review is aimed to evaluate the recent contribution of brain imaging techniques to the definition of neuroanatomofunctional models of panic disorder (PD). Methods — Structural and functional brain imaging studies of PD, conducted from January 1993 to October 2003 and selected through a comprehensive Medline search (key-words: panic disorder, emotions, brain imaging, EEG, Event-Related Potentials, MRI, fMRI, PET, SPECT, TC) were included in the review. The Medline search has been complemented by bibliographic cross-referencing. Results — The majority of the reviewed studies suggests that a dysfunction of a neural circuit encompassing prefrontal and temporo-Iimbic cortices is present in PD. A right hemisphere preferential involvement in PD has been shown by several studies. Conclusions — Reviewed neuroimaging studies suggest a dysfunction of frontal and temporo-Iimbic circuitries in PD. However, those studies cannot be considered conclusive because of several methodological limitations. Longitudinal and multi-modal studies involving larger patient samples, possibly integrated with population-based and genetic studies, would provide more insight into pathophysiological mechanisms of PD.
Declaration of Interest: Authors declare that none of them had any known real, potential, or apparent conflict of interest and that there was no business or personal interest that might be relevant to the topic of this article.
Although it is acknowledged that obsessive-compulsive (OC) patients may be slower than healthy controls in performing neuropsychological tests, speed has usually been treated as a confounding variable. It is possible, however, that the slower performance of OC patients is itself the result of a dysfunction of specific neural circuits (in particular of fronto-subcortical systems).
A neuropsychological battery including tests sensitive to fronto- and temporo-subcortical dysfunction was administered to a group of OC patients and a group of healthy controls. Each test provided independent indices of accuracy and speed.
OC patients were significantly slower than controls only when performing tasks involving the fronto-subcortical systems, whereas they did not differ from controls with respect to accuracy indices.
It may be that neuropsychological slowness of OC patients is not merely an epiphenomenon of meticulous concern for correct test execution or intrusion of obsessive thoughts, but reflects the dysfunction of fronto-subcortical systems.
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