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Childhood trauma influences the clinical features of schizophrenia. In this study, we examined how childhood trauma and perceived stress are associated with clinical manifestations and subcortical gray matter volumes (GMVs) in patients with schizophrenia.
We recruited 127 patients with schizophrenia and 83 healthy controls for assessment of early childhood trauma, perceived stress, and clinical symptoms. With structural brain imaging, we identified the GMVs of subcortical structures and examined the relationships between childhood trauma, perceived stress, clinical symptoms, and subcortical GMVs.
Compared to controls, patients with schizophrenia showed higher levels of childhood trauma and perceived stress. Patients with schizophrenia showed significantly smaller amygdala and hippocampus GMVs as well as total cortical GMVs than age-matched controls. Childhood trauma score was significantly correlated with the severity of clinical symptoms, depression, perceived stress, and amygdala GMVs. Perceived stress was significantly correlated with clinical symptoms, depression, and hippocampus and amygdala GMVs. Further, the association between childhood trauma (emotional neglect) and stress coping ability was mediated by right amygdala GMV in patients with schizophrenia.
Patients with schizophrenia had more exposure to early-life trauma and poorer stress coping. Both childhood trauma and perceived stress were associated with smaller amygdala volumes. The relationship between early-life trauma and perceived stress was mediated by right amygdala GMV in patients with schizophrenia. These findings together suggest the long-term effects of childhood trauma on perceived stress and the subcortical volumetric correlates of the effects in schizophrenia.
A dysfunctional default mode network (DMN) has been reported in patients with schizophrenia. However, the stability of the deficits has not been determined across different stages of the disorder.
We examined the functional connectivity of the DMN subsystems of 125 patients with first-episode schizophrenia (FES) or recurrent schizophrenia (RES), compared to that of 82 healthy controls. We tested the robustness of the findings in an independent cohort of 158 patients and 39 healthy controls. We performed resting-state functional connectivity analysis, and examined the strength of the connections within and between the three subsystems of the DMN (core, dorsal medial prefrontal cortex [dMPFC], and medial temporal lobe [MTL]). We also analyzed the connectivity correlations to symptoms and illness duration.
We found reduced connectivity strength between the core and MTL subsystems in schizophrenia patients compared to controls, with no differences between the FES and RES patient groups; these findings were validated in the second sample. Schizophrenia patients also showed a significant reduction in connectivity within the MTL and between the dMPFC−MTL subsystems, similarly between FES and RES groups. The connectivity strength within the core subsystem was negatively correlated with clinical symptoms in schizophrenia. There was no significant correlation between the DMN subsystem connectivity and illness duration.
DMN subsystem connectivity deficits are present in schizophrenia, and the homochronicity of their appearance indicates the trait-like nature of these alterations. The DMN deficit may be useful for early diagnosis, and MTL dysfunction may be a crucial mechanism underlying schizophrenia.
Computerized cognitive remediation therapy (CCRT) is generally effective for the cognitive deficits of schizophrenia. However, there is much uncertainty about what factors mediate or moderate effectiveness and are therefore important to personalize treatment and boost its effects.
In total, 311 Chinese inpatients with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV schizophrenia were randomized to receive CCRT or Active control for 12 weeks with four to five sessions per week. All participants were assessed at baseline, post-treatment and 3-month follow-up. The outcomes were cognition, clinical symptoms and functional outcomes.
There was a significant benefit in the MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB) total score for CCRT (F1,258 = 5.62; p = 0.02; effect size was 0.27, 95% confidence interval 0.04–0.49). There were no specific moderators of CCRT improvements. However, across both groups, Wisconsin Card Sort Test improvement mediated a positive effect on functional capacity and Digit Span benefit mediated decreases in positive symptoms. In exploratory analyses younger and older participants showed cognitive improvements but on different tests (younger on Symbol Coding Test, while older on the Spatial Span Test). Only the older age group showed MSCEIT benefits at post-treatment. In addition, cognition at baseline negatively correlated with cognitive improvement and those whose MCCB baseline total score was around 31 seem to derive the most benefit.
CCRT can improve the cognitive function of patients with schizophrenia. Changes in cognitive outcomes also contributed to improvements in functional outcomes either directly or solely in the context of CCRT. Age and the basic cognitive level of the participants seem to affect the cognitive benefits from CCRT.
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