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Gene-environment interactions (GxE) have been increasingly explored in psychiatry but with low replication rates. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a suitable candidate for studying GxE due to its high heritability and well-defined environmental risk factors. Here, we explored GxE using polygenic risk score (PRS) to represent the genetic liability to ADHD (ADHD-PRS) and environmental risk score (ERS) to represent the combined effects of environmental risk factors. We analyzed longitudinal data of 2,046 individuals (6-14 years of age at baseline and 14-23 at the last follow-up) from the Brazilian High-Risk Cohort Study for Psychiatric Disorders. Psychiatric evaluation included the Child Behavior Checklist and the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire. Statistical analyses were performed using mixed-effects models. We observed statistically significant interactions between ADHD-PRS and ERS, suggesting that environmental and genetic factors act synergistically in the development of ADHD symptoms. These effects were not present for depression or anxiety symptoms. No evidence of GxE correlation was detected. Mechanistically, our findings suggest that environmental stressors modulate the genetic risk for ADHD. Future studies should investigate whether the reduction of environmental risks can prevent the development of symptoms of ADHD, especially in children with a family history of the disorder.
Mental health problems early in life can negatively impact educational attainment, which in turn have negative long-term effects on health, social and economic opportunities. Our aims were to: (i) estimate the impacts of different types of psychiatric conditions on educational outcomes and (ii) to estimate the proportion of adverse educational outcomes which can be attributed to psychiatric conditions.
Participants (N = 2511) were from a school-based community cohort of Brazilian children and adolescents aged 6–14 years enriched for high family risk of psychiatric conditions. We examined the impact of fear- (panic, separation and social anxiety disorder, specific phobia, agoraphobia and anxiety conditions not otherwise specified), distress- (generalised anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder and depressive disorder not otherwise specified, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, tic, eating and post-traumatic stress disorder) and externalising-related conditions (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, conduct and oppositional-defiant conditions) on grade repetition, dropout, age-grade distortion, literacy performance and bullying perpetration, 3 years later. Psychiatric conditions were ascertained by psychiatrists, using the Development and Well-Being Behaviour Assessment. Propensity score and inverse probability weighting were used to adjust for potential confounders, including comorbidity, and sample attrition. We calculated the population attributable risk percentages to estimate the proportion of adverse educational outcomes in the population which could be attributed to psychiatric conditions. Analyses were conducted separately for males and females.
Fear and distress conditions in males were associated with school dropout (odds ratio (OR) = 2.76; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.06, 7.22; p < 0.05) and grade repetition (OR = 2.76; 95% CI = 1.32, 5.78; p < 0.01), respectively. Externalising conditions were associated with grade repetition in males (OR = 1.66; 95% CI = 1.05, 2.64; p < 0.05) and females (OR = 2.03; 95% CI = 1.15, 3.58; p < 0.05), as well as age-grade distortion in males (OR = 1.66; 95% CI = 1.05, 2.62; p < 0.05) and females (OR = 2.88; 95% CI = 1.61, 5.14; p < 0.001). Externalising conditions were also associated with lower literacy levels (β = −0.23; 95% CI = −0.34, −0.12; p < 0.001) and bullying perpetration (OR = 3.12; 95% CI = 1.50, 6.51; p < 0.001) in females. If all externalising conditions were prevented or treated, we estimate that 5.0 and 4.8% of grade repetition would not have occurred in females and males, respectively, as well as 10.2 (females) and 5.3% (males) of age-grade distortion cases and 11.4% of female bullying perpetration.
The study provides evidence of the negative impact of psychiatric conditions on educational outcomes in a large Brazilian cohort. Externalising conditions had the broadest and most robust negative impacts on education and these were particularly harmful to females which are likely to limit future socio-economic opportunities.
Cognition heavily relies on social determinants and genetic background. Latin America comprises approximately 8% of the global population and faces unique challenges, many derived from specific demographic and socioeconomic variables, such as violence and inequality. While such factors have been described to influence mental health outcomes, no large-scale studies with Latin American population have been carried out. Therefore, we aim to describe the cognitive performance of a representative sample of Latin American individuals with schizophrenia and its relationship to clinical factors. Additionally, we aim to investigate how socioeconomic status (SES) relates to cognitive performance in patients and controls.
We included 1175 participants from five Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico): 864 individuals with schizophrenia and 311 unaffected subjects. All participants were part of projects that included cognitive evaluation with MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery and clinical assessments.
Patients showed worse cognitive performance than controls across all domains. Age and diagnosis were independent predictors, indicating similar trajectories of cognitive aging for both patients and controls. The SES factors of education, parental education, and income were more related to cognition in patients than in controls. Cognition was also influenced by symptomatology.
Patients did not show evidence of accelerated cognitive aging; however, they were most impacted by a lower SES suggestive of deprived environment than controls. These findings highlight the vulnerability of cognitive capacity in individuals with psychosis in face of demographic and socioeconomic factors in low- and middle-income countries.
Social and environmental factors such as poverty or violence modulate the risk and course of schizophrenia. However, how they affect the brain in patients with psychosis remains unclear.
We studied how environmental factors are related to brain structure in patients with schizophrenia and controls in Latin America, where these factors are large and unequally distributed.
This is a multicentre study of magnetic resonance imaging in patients with schizophrenia and controls from six Latin American cities. Total and voxel-level grey matter volumes, and their relationship with neighbourhood characteristics such as average income and homicide rates, were analysed with a general linear model.
A total of 334 patients with schizophrenia and 262 controls were included. Income was differentially related to total grey matter volume in both groups (P = 0.006). Controls showed a positive correlation between total grey matter volume and income (R = 0.14, P = 0.02). Surprisingly, this relationship was not present in patients with schizophrenia (R = −0.076, P = 0.17). Voxel-level analysis confirmed that this interaction was widespread across the cortex. After adjusting for global brain changes, income was positively related to prefrontal cortex volumes only in controls. Conversely, the hippocampus in patients with schizophrenia, but not in controls, was relatively larger in affluent environments. There was no significant correlation between environmental violence and brain structure.
Our results highlight the interplay between environment, particularly poverty, and individual characteristics in psychosis. This is particularly important for harsh environments such as low- and middle-income countries, where potentially less brain vulnerability (less grey matter loss) is sufficient to become unwell in adverse (poor) environments.
Resistance to antipsychotic treatment affects up to 30% of patients with schizophrenia. Although the time course of development of treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS) varies from patient to patient, the reasons for these variations remain unknown. Growing evidence suggests brain dysconnectivity as a significant feature of schizophrenia. In this study, we compared fractional anisotropy (FA) of brain white matter between TRS and non–treatment-resistant schizophrenia (non-TRS) patients. Our central hypothesis was that TRS is associated with reduced FA values.
TRS was defined as the persistence of moderate to severe symptoms after adequate treatment with at least two antipsychotics from different classes. Diffusion-tensor brain MRI obtained images from 34 TRS participants and 51 non-TRS. Whole-brain analysis of FA and axial, radial, and mean diffusivity were performed using Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) and FMRIB’s Software Library (FSL), yielding a contrast between TRS and non-TRS patients, corrected for multiple comparisons using family-wise error (FWE) < 0.05.
We found a significant reduction in FA in the splenium of corpus callosum (CC) in TRS when compared to non-TRS. The antipsychotic dose did not relate to the splenium CC.
Our results suggest that the focal abnormality of CC may be a potential biomarker of TRS.
Mental disorders can have a major impact on brain development. Peripheral blood concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are lower in adult psychiatric disorders. Serum BDNF concentrations and BDNF genotype have been associated with cortical maturation in children and adolescents. In 2 large independent samples, this study tests associations between serum BDNF concentrations, brain structure, and psychopathology, and the effects of BDNF genotype on BDNF serum concentrations in late childhood and early adolescence.
Children and adolescents (7-14 years old) from 2 cities (n = 267 in Porto Alegre; n = 273 in São Paulo) were evaluated as part of the Brazilian high-risk cohort (HRC) study. Serum BDNF concentrations were quantified by sandwich ELISA. Genotyping was conducted from blood or saliva samples using the SNParray Infinium HumanCore Array BeadChip. Subcortical volumes and cortical thickness were quantified using FreeSurfer. The Development and Well-Being Behavior Assessment was used to identify the presence of a psychiatric disorder.
Serum BDNF concentrations were not associated with subcortical volumes or with cortical thickness. Serum BDNF concentration did not differ between participants with and without mental disorders, or between Val homozygotes and Met carriers.
No evidence was found to support serum BDNF concentrations as a useful marker of developmental differences in brain and behavior in early life. Negative findings were replicated in 2 of the largest independent samples investigated to date.
Previous work showed traumatic life events (TLE) with intention to harm, like bullying and abuse, to be more strongly associated with psychotic experiences (PE) than other types of trauma, like accidents. However, this association is subject to reporting bias and can be confounded by demographic characteristics and by differences in dose of exposure across different trauma categories. We studied the association between TLE with and without intention to harm and PE, taking into account potential confounders and biases.
A total of 2245 children and adolescents aged 6–14 years were interviewed by psychologists. The interview included the presence of 20 PE (both self-report and psychologist evaluation). In addition, parents provided information on child exposure to trauma, mental health and PE.
Results showed no significant association between TLE without intention to harm only and PE for the three methods of assessment of PE (self-report, parent report and psychologist rating). On the other hand, there was a positive association between PE and TLE in groups exposed to traumatic experiences with intention to harm (with intention to harm only and with and without intention to harm). Results remained significant after controlling for demographic and clinical confounders, but this positive association was no longer significant after adjusting for the number of TLE.
TLE with intention to harm display a stronger association with PE than TLE without intention to harm, and this difference is likely reducible to a greater level of traumatic exposure associated with TLE with intention to harm.
Oxidative stress has been documented in chronic schizophrenia and in the first episode of psychosis, but there are very little data on oxidative stress prior to the disease onset.
This work aimed to compare serum levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) in young individuals at ultra-high risk (UHR) of developing psychosis with a comparison healthy control group (HC).
Thirteen UHR subjects and 29 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HC) were enrolled in this study. Clinical assessment included the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental States (CAARMS), the Semi-Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis-I (SCID-I) or the Kiddie-SADS-Present and Lifetime Version (K-SADS-PL), and the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scale. Activities of SOD and GPx were measured in serum by the spectrophotometric method using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kits.
After adjusting for age and years of education, there was a significant lower activity of SOD and lower GPX activity in the UHR group compared to the healthy control group (rate ratio [RR]=0.330, 95% CI 0.187; 0.584, p<0.001 and RR=0.509, 95% CI 0.323; 0.803, p=0.004, respectively). There were also positive correlations between GAF functioning scores and GPx and SOD activities.
Our results suggest that oxidative imbalances could be present prior to the onset of full-blown psychosis, including in at-risk stages. Future studies should replicate and expand these results.
Several studies have shown cortical volume loss in frontotemporal regions in schizophrenia patients, and it is known that these reductions may be associated with disease symptoms and cognitive deficits. The aim of this study was to investigate possible cortical thickness correlations in frontotemporal regions in relation to age at onset and duration of illness.
One hundred forty-eight schizophrenia patients (97 males; age and SD 36.30 ± 10.06) and 87 (57 males; age and SD 36.48 ± 10.10) age-matched healthy subjects underwent a brain MRI scan. Cortical segmentation and surface statistical analysis were performed using the FreeSurfer software package. Results were corrected for multiple comparisons using the Monte Carlo method considering a cluster-corrected Type I Error of 5%.
Compared to controls, schizophrenia patients presented significant cortical thinning in the frontotemporal, parietal, and occipital cortices. No correlation between prefrontal cortex thickness and duration of illness in patients with schizophrenia or between frontotemporal cortical thickness and age at onset was found. However, a significant interaction between age and diagnosis was observed on frontal cortical thickness with patients presenting a thinner cortex than expected for age.
Although there was no correlation between age of onset and duration of illness with brain volume, our findings suggest that there is an accelerated cortical loss in schizophrenia, thus reinforcing the progressive processes of the disease.
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