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In total numbers, Germany has faced the largest number of refugees and asylum seekers (RAS) in Europe in the past decade. Although a considerable proportion have experienced traumatic and stressful life events, there is no systematic review to date examining the prevalence of depressive symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in RAS in Germany.
To calculate the prevalence of depressive symptoms and PTSD symptoms in the general population of RAS living in Germany after the year 2000 and explore the impact of study- and participant-related characteristics on prevalence estimates.
We systematically searched PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, PSYNDEX, Academic Search Complete, Science Direct and Web of Science from January 2000 to May 2020 to identify articles reporting prevalence of depressive symptoms and PTSD in RAS in Germany (PROSPERO registration number: CRD42020182796).
In total, 31 different surveys met inclusion criteria with 20 surveys reporting prevalence estimates of depressive symptoms and 25 surveys symptoms of PTSD. Based on screening tools, the pooled prevalence estimate of PTSD symptoms was 29.9% (95% CI 20.8–38.7%) and of depressive symptoms 39.8% (95% CI 29.8–50.1%). Heterogeneity was large within and between subgroups. In multivariate meta-regressions on depressive symptoms, heterogeneity was largely explained by survey period, length of field period and study quality.
Prevalence rates of depressive symptoms and PTSD symptoms in RAS are notably large. They exceed the prevalence in the general German population. As a result of high heterogeneity, however, pooled prevalence rates should be interpreted with caution.
Previous case–control studies of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) have identified altered brain structure such as altered frontal and temporal cortex volumes, or decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) within the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus in patients. It remains unclear whether subclinical autistic-like traits might also be related to variation in these brain structures.
In this study, we analyzed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data of 250 psychiatrically healthy subjects phenotyped for subclinical autistic-like traits using the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). For data analysis, we used voxel-based morphometry of T1-MRIs (Computational Anatomy Toolbox) and tract-based spatial statistics for diffusion tensor imaging data.
AQ attention switching subscale correlated negatively with FA values in the bilateral uncinate fasciculus as well as the bilateral inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. Higher AQ attention switching subscale scores were associated with increased mean diffusivity and radial diffusivity values in the uncinate fasciculus, while axial diffusivity values within this tract show a negative correlation. AQ attention to detail subscale correlated positively with gray matter volume in the right pre- and postcentral gyrus.
We demonstrate that individuals with higher levels of autism-spectrum-like features show decreased white matter integrity in tracts associated with higher-level visual processing and increased cortical volume in areas linked to movement sequencing and working memory. Our results resemble regional brain structure alterations found in individuals with ASD. This offers opportunities to further understand the etiology and pathogenesis of the disorder and shows a subclinical continuum perspective.
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