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Preschool psychiatric symptoms significantly increase the risk for long-term negative outcomes. Transdiagnostic hierarchical approaches that capture general (‘p’) and specific psychopathology dimensions are promising for understanding risk and predicting outcomes, but their predictive utility in young children is not well established. We delineated a hierarchical structure of preschool psychopathology dimensions and tested their ability to predict psychiatric disorders and functional impairment in preadolescence.
Data for 1253 preschool children (mean age = 4.17, s.d. = 0.81) were drawn from three longitudinal studies using a similar methodology (one community sample, two psychopathology-enriched samples) and followed up into preadolescence, yielding a large and diverse sample. Exploratory factor models derived a hierarchical structure of general and specific factors using symptoms from the Preschool Age Psychiatric Assessment interview. Longitudinal analyses examined the prospective associations of preschool p and specific factors with preadolescent psychiatric disorders and functional impairment.
A hierarchical dimensional structure with a p factor at the top and up to six specific factors (distress, fear, separation anxiety, social anxiety, inattention-hyperactivity, oppositionality) emerged at preschool age. The p factor predicted all preadolescent disorders (ΔR2 = 0.04–0.15) and functional impairment (ΔR2 = 0.01–0.07) to a significantly greater extent than preschool psychiatric diagnoses and functioning. Specific dimensions provided additional predictive power for the majority of preadolescent outcomes (disorders: ΔR2 = 0.06–0.15; functional impairment: ΔR2 = 0.05–0.12).
Both general and specific dimensions of preschool psychopathology are useful for predicting clinical and functional outcomes almost a decade later. These findings highlight the value of transdiagnostic dimensions for predicting prognosis and as potential targets for early intervention and prevention.
One of the challenges in human neuroscience is to uncover associations between brain organization and psychopathology in order to better understand the biological underpinnings of mental disorders. Here, we aimed to characterize the neural correlates of psychopathology dimensions obtained using two conceptually different data-driven approaches.
Dimensions of psychopathology that were either maximally dissociable or correlated were respectively extracted by independent component analysis (ICA) and exploratory factor analysis (EFA) applied to the Childhood Behavior Checklist items from 9- to 10-year-olds (n = 9983; 47.8% female, 50.8% white) participating in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study. The patterns of brain morphometry, white matter integrity and resting-state connectivity associated with each dimension were identified using kernel-based regularized least squares and compared between dimensions using Spearman’s correlation coefficient.
ICA identified three psychopathology dimensions, representing opposition–disinhibition, cognitive dyscontrol, and negative affect, with distinct brain correlates. Opposition–disinhibition was negatively associated with cortical surface area, cognitive dyscontrol was negatively associated with anatomical and functional dysconnectivity while negative affect did not show discernable associations with any neuroimaging measure. EFA identified three dimensions representing broad externalizing, neurodevelopmental, and broad Internalizing problems with partially overlapping brain correlates. All EFA-derived dimensions were negatively associated with cortical surface area, whereas measures of functional and structural connectivity were associated only with the neurodevelopmental dimension.
This study highlights the importance of cortical surface area and global connectivity for psychopathology in preadolescents and provides evidence for dissociable psychopathology dimensions with distinct brain correlates.
Risk factors for depressive disorders (DD) change substantially over time, but the prognostic value of these changes remains unclear. Two basic types of dynamic effects are possible. The ‘Risk Escalation hypothesis’ posits that worsening of risk levels predicts DD onset above average level of risk factors. Alternatively, the ‘Chronic Risk hypothesis’ posits that the average level rather than change predicts first-onset DD.
We utilized data from the ADEPT project, a cohort of 496 girls (baseline age 13.5–15.5 years) from the community followed for 3 years. Participants underwent five waves of assessments for risk factors and diagnostic interviews for DD. For illustration purposes, we selected 16 well-established dynamic risk factors for adolescent depression, such as depressive and anxiety symptoms, personality traits, clinical traits, and social risk factors. We conducted Cox regression analyses with time-varying covariates to predict first DD onset.
Consistently elevated risk factors (i.e. the mean of multiple waves), but not recent escalation, predicted first-onset DD, consistent with the Chronic Risk hypothesis. This hypothesis was supported across all 16 risk factors.
Across a range of risk factors, girls who had first-onset DD generally did not experience a sharp increase in risk level shortly before the onset of disorder; rather, for years before onset, they exhibited elevated levels of risk. Our findings suggest that chronicity of risk should be a particular focus in screening high-risk populations to prevent the onset of DDs. In particular, regular monitoring of risk factors in school settings is highly informative.
Traditionally, personality has been conceptualized in terms of dimensions of human experience – habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. By contrast, psychopathology has traditionally been conceptualized in terms of categories of disorder – disordered thinking, feeling, and behaving. The empirical literature, however, routinely shows that psychopathology does not coalesce into readily distinguishable categories. Indeed, psychopathology tends to delineate dimensions that are relatively similar to dimensions of personality. In this special issue of Personality Neuroscience, authors took up the challenge of reconceptualizing personality and psychopathology in terms of connected and interrelated dimensions, and they considered the utility of pursuing neuroscientific inquiry from this more integrative perspective. In this editorial article, we provide the relevant background to the interface between personality, psychopathology, and neuroscience; summarize contributions to the special issue; and point toward directions for continued research and refinement. All told, it is evident that quantitatively derived, integrative models of personality–psychopathology represent a particularly promising conduit for advancing our understanding of the neurobiological foundation of human experience, both functional and dysfunctional.
Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) capture genetic vulnerability to psychiatric conditions. However, PRSs are often associated with multiple mental health problems in children, complicating their use in research and clinical practice. The current study is the first to systematically test which PRSs associate broadly with all forms of childhood psychopathology, and which PRSs are more specific to one or a handful of forms of psychopathology.
The sample consisted of 4717 unrelated children (mean age = 9.92, s.d. = 0.62; 47.1% female; all European ancestry). Psychopathology was conceptualized hierarchically as empirically derived general factor (p-factor) and five specific factors: externalizing, internalizing, neurodevelopmental, somatoform, and detachment. Partial correlations explored associations between psychopathology factors and 22 psychopathology-related PRSs. Regressions tested which level of the psychopathology hierarchy was most strongly associated with each PRS.
Thirteen PRSs were significantly associated with the general factor, most prominently Chronic Multisite Pain-PRS (r = 0.098), ADHD-PRS (r = 0.079), and Depression-PRS (r = 0.078). After adjusting for the general factor, Depression-PRS, Neuroticism-PRS, PTSD-PRS, Insomnia-PRS, Chronic Back Pain-PRS, and Autism-PRS were not associated with lower order factors. Conversely, several externalizing PRSs, including Adventurousness-PRS and Disinhibition-PRS, remained associated with the externalizing factor (|r| = 0.040–0.058). The ADHD-PRS remained uniquely associated with the neurodevelopmental factor (r = 062).
PRSs developed to predict vulnerability to emotional difficulties and chronic pain generally captured genetic risk for all forms of childhood psychopathology. PRSs developed to predict vulnerability to externalizing difficulties, e.g. disinhibition, tended to be more specific in predicting behavioral problems. The results may inform translation of existing PRSs to pediatric research and future clinical practice.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often persists into adolescence and adulthood, but the processes underlying persistence and remission remain poorly understood. We previously found that reaction time variability and event-related potentials of preparation-vigilance processes were impaired in ADHD persisters and represented markers of remission, as ADHD remitters were indistinguishable from controls but differed from persisters. Here, we aimed to further clarify the nature of the cognitive-neurophysiological impairments in ADHD and of markers of remission by examining the finer-grained ex-Gaussian reaction-time distribution and electroencephalographic (EEG) brain-oscillatory measures in ADHD persisters, remitters and controls.
A total of 110 adolescents and young adults with childhood ADHD (87 persisters, 23 remitters) and 169 age-matched controls were compared on ex-Gaussian (mu, sigma, tau) indices and time-frequency EEG measures of power and phase consistency from a reaction-time task with slow-unrewarded baseline and fast-incentive conditions (‘Fast task’).
Compared to controls, ADHD persisters showed significantly greater mu, sigma, tau, and lower theta power and phase consistency across conditions. Relative to ADHD persisters, remitters showed significantly lower tau and theta power and phase consistency across conditions, as well as lower mu in the fast-incentive condition, with no difference in the baseline condition. Remitters did not significantly differ from controls on any measure.
We found widespread impairments in ADHD persisters in reaction-time distribution and brain-oscillatory measures. Event-related theta power, theta phase consistency and tau across conditions, as well as mu in the more engaging fast-incentive condition, emerged as novel markers of ADHD remission, potentially representing compensatory mechanisms in individuals with remitted ADHD.
Preterm birth is associated with an increased risk for cognitive-neurophysiological impairments and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Whether the associations are due to the preterm birth insult per se, or due to other risk factors that characterise families with preterm-born children, is largely unknown.
We employed a within-sibling comparison design, using cognitive-performance and event-related potential (ERP) measures from 104 preterm-born adolescents and 104 of their term-born siblings. Analyses focused on ADHD symptoms and cognitive and ERP measures from a cued continuous performance test, an arrow flanker task and a reaction time task.
Within-sibling analyses showed that preterm birth was significantly associated with increased ADHD symptoms (β = 0.32, p = 0.01, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.58) and specific cognitive-ERP impairments, such as IQ (β = −0.20, p = 0.02, 95% CI −0.40 to −0.01), preparation-vigilance measures and measures of error processing (ranging from β = 0.71, −0.35). There was a negligible within-sibling association between preterm birth with executive control measures of inhibition (NoGo-P3, β = −0.07, p = 0.45, 95% CI −0.33 to 0.15) or verbal working memory (digit span backward, β = −0.05, p = 0.63, 95% CI −0.30 to 0.18).
Our results suggest that the relationship between preterm birth with ADHD symptoms and specific cognitive-neurophysiological impairments (IQ, preparation-vigilance and error processing) is independent of family-level risk and consistent with a causal inference. In contrast, our results suggest that previously observed associations between preterm birth with executive control processes of inhibition and working memory are instead linked to background characteristics of families with a preterm-born child rather than preterm birth insult per se. These findings suggest that interventions need to target both preterm-birth specific and family-level risk factors.
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