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The present study examines whether neuroticism is predicted by genetic vulnerability, summarized as polygenic risk score for neuroticism (PRSN), in interaction with bullying, parental bonding, and childhood adversity. Data were derived from a general population adolescent and young adult twin cohort. The final sample consisted of 202 monozygotic and 436 dizygotic twins and 319 twin pairs. The Short Eysenck Personality questionnaire was used to measure neuroticism. PRSN was trained on the results from the Genetics of Personality Consortium (GPC) and United Kingdom Biobank (UKB) cohorts, yielding two different PRSN. Multilevel mixed-effects models were used to analyze the main and interacting associations of PRSN, childhood adversity, bullying, and parental bonding style with neuroticism. We found no evidence of gene–environment correlation. PRSN thresholds of .005 and .2 were chosen, based on GPC and UKB datasets, respectively. After correction for confounders, all the individual variables were associated with the expression of neuroticism: both PRSN from GPC and UKB, childhood adversity, maternal bonding, paternal bonding, and bullying in primary school and secondary school. However, the results indicated no evidence for gene–environment interaction in this cohort. These results suggest that genetic vulnerability on the one hand and negative life events (childhood adversity and bullying) and positive life events (optimal parental bonding) on the other represent noninteracting pathways to neuroticism.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) can affect educational attainments, but little is known about their impact on educational achievements in people at clinical high risk of psychosis (CHR).
In total, 344 CHR individuals and 67 healthy controls (HC) were recruited as part of the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme-funded multicenter study the European Network of National Schizophrenia Networks Studying Gene–Environment Interactions (EU-GEI). The brief version of the Child Trauma Questionnaire was used to measure ACE, while educational attainments were assessed using a semi-structured interview.
At baseline, compared with HC, the CHR group spent less time in education and had higher rates of ACE, lower rates of employment, and lower estimated intelligence quotient (IQ). Across both groups, the total number of ACE was associated with fewer days in education and lower level of education. Emotional abuse was associated with fewer days in education in HC. Emotional neglect was associated with a lower level of education in CHR, while sexual abuse was associated with a lower level of education in HC. In the CHR group, the total number of ACE, physical abuse, and neglect was significantly associated with unemployment, while emotional neglect was associated with employment.
ACE are strongly associated with developmental outcomes such as educational achievement. Early intervention for psychosis programs should aim at integrating specific interventions to support young CHR people in their educational and vocational recovery. More generally, public health and social interventions focused on the prevention of ACE (or reduce their impact if ACE occur) are recommended.
Empirical evidence suggests that people use cannabis to ameliorate anxiety and depressive symptoms, yet cannabis also acutely worsens psychosis and affective symptoms. However, the temporal relationship between cannabis use, anxiety and depressive symptoms and psychotic experiences (PE) in longitudinal studies is unclear. This may be informed by examination of mutually mediating roles of cannabis, anxiety and depressive symptoms in the emergence of PE.
Data were derived from the second longitudinal Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study. Mediation analysis was performed to examine the relationship between cannabis use, anxiety/depressive symptoms and PE, using KHB logit in STATA while adjusting for age, sex and education status.
Cannabis use was found to mediate the relationship between preceding anxiety, depressive symptoms and later PE incidence, but the indirect contribution of cannabis use was small (for anxiety: % of total effect attributable to cannabis use = 1.00%; for depression: % of total effect attributable to cannabis use = 1.4%). Interestingly, anxiety and depressive symptoms were found to mediate the relationship between preceding cannabis use and later PE incidence to a greater degree (% of total effect attributable to anxiety = 17%; % of total effect attributable to depression = 37%).
This first longitudinal cohort study examining the mediational relationship between cannabis use, anxiety/depressive symptoms and PE, shows that there is a bidirectional relationship between cannabis use, anxiety/depressive symptoms and PE. However, the contribution of anxiety/depressive symptoms as a mediator was greater than that of cannabis.
A history of childhood adversity is associated with psychotic disorder, with an increase in risk according to the number of exposures. However, it is not known why only some exposed individuals go on to develop psychosis. One possibility is pre-existing polygenic vulnerability. Here, we investigated, in the largest sample of first-episode psychosis (FEP) cases to date, whether childhood adversity and high polygenic risk scores for schizophrenia (SZ-PRS) combine synergistically to increase the risk of psychosis, over and above the effect of each alone.
We assigned a schizophrenia-polygenic risk score (SZ-PRS), calculated from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC2), to all participants in a sample of 384 FEP patients and 690 controls from the case–control component of the EU-GEI study. Only participants of European ancestry were included in the study. A history of childhood adversity was collected using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). Synergistic effects were estimated using the interaction contrast ratio (ICR) [odds ratio (OR)exposure and PRS − ORexposure − ORPRS + 1] with adjustment for potential confounders.
There was some evidence that the combined effect of childhood adversities and polygenic risk was greater than the sum of each alone, as indicated by an ICR greater than zero [i.e. ICR 1.28, 95% confidence interval (CI) −1.29 to 3.85]. Examining subtypes of childhood adversities, the strongest synergetic effect was observed for physical abuse (ICR 6.25, 95% CI −6.25 to 20.88).
Our findings suggest possible synergistic effects of genetic liability and childhood adversity experiences in the onset of FEP, but larger samples are needed to increase precision of estimates.
A transdiagnostic and contextual framework of ‘clinical characterization’, combining clinical, psychopathological, sociodemographic, etiological, and other personal contextual data, may add clinical value over and above categorical algorithm-based diagnosis.
Prediction of need for care and health care outcomes was examined prospectively as a function of the contextual clinical characterization diagnostic framework in a prospective general population cohort (n = 6646 at baseline), interviewed four times between 2007 and 2018 (NEMESIS-2). Measures of need, service use, and use of medication were predicted as a function of any of 13 DSM-IV diagnoses, both separately and in combination with clinical characterization across multiple domains: social circumstances/demographics, symptom dimensions, physical health, clinical/etiological factors, staging, and polygenic risk scores (PRS). Effect sizes were expressed as population attributable fractions.
Any prediction of DSM-diagnosis in relation to need and outcome in separate models was entirely reducible to components of contextual clinical characterization in joint models, particularly the component of transdiagnostic symptom dimensions (a simple score of the number of anxiety, depression, mania, and psychosis symptoms) and staging (subthreshold, incidence, persistence), and to a lesser degree clinical factors (early adversity, family history, suicidality, slowness at interview, neuroticism, and extraversion), and sociodemographic factors. Clinical characterization components in combination predicted more than any component in isolation. PRS did not meaningfully contribute to any clinical characterization model.
A transdiagnostic framework of contextual clinical characterization is of more value to patients than a categorical system of algorithmic ordering of psychopathology.
A cumulative environmental exposure score for schizophrenia (exposome score for schizophrenia [ES-SCZ]) may provide potential utility for risk stratification and outcome prediction. Here, we investigated whether ES-SCZ was associated with functioning in patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorder, unaffected siblings, and healthy controls.
This cross-sectional sample consisted of 1,261 patients, 1,282 unaffected siblings, and 1,525 healthy controls. The Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scale was used to assess functioning. ES-SCZ was calculated based on our previously validated method. The association between ES-SCZ and the GAF dimensions (symptom and disability) was analyzed by applying regression models in each group (patients, siblings, and controls). Additional models included polygenic risk score for schizophrenia (PRS-SCZ) as a covariate.
ES-SCZ was associated with the GAF dimensions in patients (symptom: B = −1.53, p-value = 0.001; disability: B = −1.44, p-value = 0.001), siblings (symptom: B = −3.07, p-value < 0.001; disability: B = −2.52, p-value < 0.001), and healthy controls (symptom: B = −1.50, p-value < 0.001; disability: B = −1.31, p-value < 0.001). The results remained the same after adjusting for PRS-SCZ. The degree of associations of ES-SCZ with both symptom and disability dimensions were higher in unaffected siblings than in patients and controls. By analyzing an independent dataset (the Genetic Risk and Outcome of Psychosis study), we replicated the results observed in the patient group.
Our findings suggest that ES-SCZ shows promise for enhancing risk prediction and stratification in research practice. From a clinical perspective, ES-SCZ may aid in efforts of clinical characterization, operationalizing transdiagnostic clinical staging models, and personalizing clinical management.
There is evidence that environmental and genetic risk factors for schizophrenia spectrum disorders are transdiagnostic and mediated in part through a generic pathway of affective dysregulation.
We analysed to what degree the impact of schizophrenia polygenic risk (PRS-SZ) and childhood adversity (CA) on psychosis outcomes was contingent on co-presence of affective dysregulation, defined as significant depressive symptoms, in (i) NEMESIS-2 (n = 6646), a representative general population sample, interviewed four times over nine years and (ii) EUGEI (n = 4068) a sample of patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorder, the siblings of these patients and controls.
The impact of PRS-SZ on psychosis showed significant dependence on co-presence of affective dysregulation in NEMESIS-2 [relative excess risk due to interaction (RERI): 1.01, p = 0.037] and in EUGEI (RERI = 3.39, p = 0.048). This was particularly evident for delusional ideation (NEMESIS-2: RERI = 1.74, p = 0.003; EUGEI: RERI = 4.16, p = 0.019) and not for hallucinatory experiences (NEMESIS-2: RERI = 0.65, p = 0.284; EUGEI: −0.37, p = 0.547). A similar and stronger pattern of results was evident for CA (RERI delusions and hallucinations: NEMESIS-2: 3.02, p < 0.001; EUGEI: 6.44, p < 0.001; RERI delusional ideation: NEMESIS-2: 3.79, p < 0.001; EUGEI: 5.43, p = 0.001; RERI hallucinatory experiences: NEMESIS-2: 2.46, p < 0.001; EUGEI: 0.54, p = 0.465).
The results, and internal replication, suggest that the effects of known genetic and non-genetic risk factors for psychosis are mediated in part through an affective pathway, from which early states of delusional meaning may arise.
Psychosis is associated with a reasoning bias, which manifests as a tendency to ‘jump to conclusions’. We examined this bias in people at clinical high-risk for psychosis (CHR) and investigated its relationship with their clinical outcomes.
In total, 303 CHR subjects and 57 healthy controls (HC) were included. Both groups were assessed at baseline, and after 1 and 2 years. A ‘beads’ task was used to assess reasoning bias. Symptoms and level of functioning were assessed using the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental States scale (CAARMS) and the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF), respectively. During follow up, 58 (16.1%) of the CHR group developed psychosis (CHR-T), and 245 did not (CHR-NT). Logistic regressions, multilevel mixed models, and Cox regression were used to analyse the relationship between reasoning bias and transition to psychosis and level of functioning, at each time point.
There was no association between reasoning bias at baseline and the subsequent onset of psychosis. However, when assessed after the transition to psychosis, CHR-T participants showed a greater tendency to jump to conclusions than CHR-NT and HC participants (55, 17, 17%; χ2 = 8.13, p = 0.012). There was a significant association between jumping to conclusions (JTC) at baseline and a reduced level of functioning at 2-year follow-up in the CHR group after adjusting for transition, gender, ethnicity, age, and IQ.
In CHR participants, JTC at baseline was associated with adverse functioning at the follow-up. Interventions designed to improve JTC could be beneficial in the CHR population.
Daily use of high-potency cannabis has been reported to carry a high risk for developing a psychotic disorder. However, the evidence is mixed on whether any pattern of cannabis use is associated with a particular symptomatology in first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients.
We analysed data from 901 FEP patients and 1235 controls recruited across six countries, as part of the European Network of National Schizophrenia Networks Studying Gene-Environment Interactions (EU-GEI) study. We used item response modelling to estimate two bifactor models, which included general and specific dimensions of psychotic symptoms in patients and psychotic experiences in controls. The associations between these dimensions and cannabis use were evaluated using linear mixed-effects models analyses.
In patients, there was a linear relationship between the positive symptom dimension and the extent of lifetime exposure to cannabis, with daily users of high-potency cannabis having the highest score (B = 0.35; 95% CI 0.14–0.56). Moreover, negative symptoms were more common among patients who never used cannabis compared with those with any pattern of use (B = −0.22; 95% CI −0.37 to −0.07). In controls, psychotic experiences were associated with current use of cannabis but not with the extent of lifetime use. Neither patients nor controls presented differences in depressive dimension related to cannabis use.
Our findings provide the first large-scale evidence that FEP patients with a history of daily use of high-potency cannabis present with more positive and less negative symptoms, compared with those who never used cannabis or used low-potency types.
Meta-analyses suggest that clinical psychopathology is preceded by dimensional behavioral and cognitive phenotypes such as psychotic experiences, executive functioning, working memory and affective dysregulation that are determined by the interplay between genetic and nongenetic factors contributing to the severity of psychopathology. The liability to mental ill health can be psychometrically measured using experimental paradigms that assess neurocognitive processes such as salience attribution, sensitivity to social defeat and reward sensitivity. Here, we describe the TwinssCan, a longitudinal general population twin cohort, which comprises 1202 individuals (796 adolescent/young adult twins, 43 siblings and 363 parents) at baseline. The TwinssCan is part of the European Network of National Networks studying Gene-Environment Interactions in Schizophrenia project and recruited from the East Flanders Prospective Twin Survey. The main objective of this project is to understand psychopathology by evaluating the contribution of genetic and nongenetic factors on subclinical expressions of dimensional phenotypes at a young age before the onset of disorder and their association with neurocognitive processes, such as salience attribution, sensitivity to social defeat and reward sensitivity.
First-degree relatives of patients with psychotic disorder have higher levels of polygenic risk (PRS) for schizophrenia and higher levels of intermediate phenotypes.
We conducted, using two different samples for discovery (n = 336 controls and 649 siblings of patients with psychotic disorder) and replication (n = 1208 controls and 1106 siblings), an analysis of association between PRS on the one hand and psychopathological and cognitive intermediate phenotypes of schizophrenia on the other in a sample at average genetic risk (healthy controls) and a sample at higher than average risk (healthy siblings of patients). Two subthreshold psychosis phenotypes, as well as a standardised measure of cognitive ability, based on a short version of the WAIS-III short form, were used. In addition, a measure of jumping to conclusion bias (replication sample only) was tested for association with PRS.
In both discovery and replication sample, evidence for an association between PRS and subthreshold psychosis phenotypes was observed in the relatives of patients, whereas in the controls no association was observed. Jumping to conclusion bias was similarly only associated with PRS in the sibling group. Cognitive ability was weakly negatively and non-significantly associated with PRS in both the sibling and the control group.
The degree of endophenotypic expression of schizophrenia polygenic risk depends on having a sibling with psychotic disorder, suggestive of underlying gene–environment interaction. Cognitive biases may better index genetic risk of disorder than traditional measures of neurocognition, which instead may reflect the population distribution of cognitive ability impacting the prognosis of psychotic disorder.
The Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences (CAPE) is a 42-item self-report questionnaire that has been developed and validated to measure the dimensions of psychosis in the general population. The CAPE has a three-factor structure with dimensions of positive, negative and depression. Assessing the cross-national equivalence of a questionnaire is an essential prerequisite before pooling data from different countries. In this study, our aim was to investigate the measurement invariance of the CAPE across different countries.
Data were drawn from the European Union Gene-Environment Interaction (EU-GEI) study. Participants (incident cases of psychotic disorder, controls and siblings of cases) were recruited in Brazil, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and UK. To analyse the measurement invariance across these samples, we tested configural invariance (i.e. identical structures of the factors), metric invariance (i.e. equivalence of the factor loadings) and scalar invariance (i.e. equivalence of the thresholds) of the three CAPE dimensions using multigroup categorical confirmatory factor analysis methods.
The configural invariance model fits well, providing evidence for identical factorial structure across countries. In comparison with the configural model invariance, the fit indices were very similar in the metric and scalar invariance models, indicating that factor loadings and thresholds did not differ across the six countries.
We found that, across six countries, the CAPE showed equivalent factorial structure, factor loadings and thresholds. Thus, differences observed in scores between individuals from different countries should be considered as reflecting different levels of psychosis.
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