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Patients with a first episode of psychosis (FEP) display clinical, cognitive, and structural brain abnormalities at illness onset. Ventricular enlargement has been identified in schizophrenia since the initial development of neuroimaging techniques. Obstetric abnormalities have been associated with an increased risk of developing psychosis but also with cognitive impairment and brain structure abnormalities. Difficulties during delivery are associated with a higher risk of birth asphyxia leading to brain structural abnormalities, such as ventriculomegaly, which has been related to cognitive disturbances.
We examined differences in ventricular size between 142 FEP patients and 123 healthy control participants using magnetic resonance imaging. Obstetric complications were evaluated using the Lewis–Murray scale. We examined the impact of obstetric difficulties during delivery on ventricle size as well as the possible relationship between ventricle size and cognitive impairment in both groups.
FEP patients displayed significantly larger third ventricle size compared with healthy controls. Third ventricle enlargement was associated with diagnosis (higher volume in patients), with difficulties during delivery (higher volume in subjects with difficulties), and was highest in patients with difficulties during delivery. Verbal memory was significantly associated with third ventricle to brain ratio.
Our results suggest that difficulties during delivery might be significant contributors to the ventricular enlargement historically described in schizophrenia. Thus, obstetric complications may contribute to the development of psychosis through changes in brain architecture.
Psychotic disorders exhibit a complex aetiology that combines genetic and environmental factors. Among the latter, obstetric complications (OCs) have been widely studied as risk factors, but it is not yet well understood how OCs relate to the heterogeneous presentations of psychotic disorders. We assessed the clinical phenotypes of individuals with a first episode of psychosis (FEP) in relation to the presence of OCs.
Two-hundred seventy-seven patients with an FEP were assessed for OCs using the Lewis–Murray scale, with data stratified into three subscales depending on the timing and the characteristics of the obstetric event, namely: complications of pregnancy, abnormal foetal growth and development and difficulties in delivery. We also considered other two groups: any complications during the pregnancy period and all OCs taken altogether. Patients were clinically evaluated with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale for schizophrenia.
Total OCs and difficulties in delivery were related to more severe psychopathology, and this remained significant after co-varying for age, sex, traumatic experiences, antipsychotic dosage and cannabis use.
Our results highlight the relevance of OCs for the clinical presentation of psychosis. Describing the timing of the OCs is essential in understanding the heterogeneity of the clinical presentation.
Given psychotic illnesses' high heritability and associations with brain structure, numerous neuroimaging-genetics findings have been reported in the last two decades. However, few findings have been replicated. In the present independent sample we aimed to replicate any psychosis-implicated SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), which had previously shown at least two main effects on brain volume.
A systematic review for SNPs showing a replicated effect on brain volume yielded 25 studies implicating seven SNPs in five genes. Their effect was then tested in 113 subjects with either schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ‘at risk mental state’ or healthy state, for whole-brain and region-of-interest (ROI) associations with grey and white matter volume changes, using voxel-based morphometry.
We found FWER-corrected (Family-wise error rate) (i.e. statistically significant) associations of: (1) CACNA1C-rs769087-A with larger bilateral hippocampus and thalamus white matter, across the whole brain; and (2) CACNA1C-rs769087-A with larger superior frontal gyrus, as ROI. Higher replication concordance with existing literature was found, in decreasing order, for: (1) CACNA1C-rs769087-A, with larger dorsolateral-prefrontal/superior frontal gyrus and hippocampi (both with anatomical and directional concordance); (2) ZNF804A-rs11681373-A, with smaller angular gyrus grey matter and rectus gyri white matter (both with anatomical and directional concordance); and (3) BDNF-rs6265-T with superior frontal and middle cingulate gyri volume change (with anatomical and allelic concordance).
Most literature findings were not herein replicated. Nevertheless, high degree/likelihood of replication was found for two genome-wide association studies- and one candidate-implicated SNPs, supporting their involvement in psychosis and brain structure.
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are genetically related and their clinical features overlap. Schizophrenia is conceptualised as a neurodevelopmental disorder but the evidence for bipolar disorder is less clear. Cluster-analytic approaches reveal different cognitive profiles within bipolar disorder, possibly reflective of differing neurodevelopmental loads, which are also suggested by recent genetic and neuroimaging studies. Such studies suggest the potential utility of further clinical subcategories in bipolar disorder based on neurodevelopmental load.
Declaration of interest
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