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The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) has emerged out of the quantitative approach to psychiatric nosology. This approach identifies psychopathology constructs based on patterns of co-variation among signs and symptoms. The initial HiTOP model, which was published in 2017, is based on a large literature that spans decades of research. HiTOP is a living model that undergoes revision as new data become available. Here we discuss advantages and practical considerations of using this system in psychiatric practice and research. We especially highlight limitations of HiTOP and ongoing efforts to address them. We describe differences and similarities between HiTOP and existing diagnostic systems. Next, we review the types of evidence that informed development of HiTOP, including populations in which it has been studied and data on its validity. The paper also describes how HiTOP can facilitate research on genetic and environmental causes of psychopathology as well as the search for neurobiologic mechanisms and novel treatments. Furthermore, we consider implications for public health programs and prevention of mental disorders. We also review data on clinical utility and illustrate clinical application of HiTOP. Importantly, the model is based on measures and practices that are already used widely in clinical settings. HiTOP offers a way to organize and formalize these techniques. This model already can contribute to progress in psychiatry and complement traditional nosologies. Moreover, HiTOP seeks to facilitate research on linkages between phenotypes and biological processes, which may enable construction of a system that encompasses both biomarkers and precise clinical description.
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.
In this study, we examined the relationship between polygenic liability for depression and number of stressful life events (SLEs) as risk factors for early-onset depression treated in inpatient, outpatient or emergency room settings at psychiatric hospitals in Denmark.
Data were drawn from the iPSYCH2012 case-cohort sample, a population-based sample of individuals born in Denmark between 1981 and 2005. The sample included 18 532 individuals who were diagnosed with depression by a psychiatrist by age 31 years, and a comparison group of 20 184 individuals. Information on SLEs was obtained from nationwide registers and operationalized as a time-varying count variable. Hazard ratios and cumulative incidence rates were estimated using Cox regressions.
Risk for depression increased by 35% with each standard deviation increase in polygenic liability (p < 0.0001), and 36% (p < 0.0001) with each additional SLE. There was a small interaction between polygenic liability and SLEs (β = −0.04, p = 0.0009). The probability of being diagnosed with depression in a hospital-based setting between ages 15 and 31 years ranged from 1.5% among males in the lowest quartile of polygenic liability with 0 events by age 15, to 18.8% among females in the highest quartile of polygenic liability with 4+ events by age 15.
These findings suggest that although there is minimal interaction between polygenic liability and SLEs as risk factors for hospital-treated depression, combining information on these two important risk factors could potentially be useful for identifying high-risk individuals.
Life events (LEs) are a risk factor for first onset and relapse of psychotic disorders. However, the impact of LEs on specific symptoms – namely reality distortion, disorganization, negative symptoms, depression, and mania – remains unclear. Moreover, the differential effects of negative v. positive LEs are poorly understood.
The present study utilizes an epidemiologic cohort of patients (N = 428) ascertained at first-admission for psychosis and followed for a decade thereafter. Symptoms were assessed at 6-, 24-, 48-, and 120-month follow-ups.
We examined symptom change within-person and found that negative events in the previous 6 months predicted an increase in reality distortion (β = 0.07), disorganized (β = 0.07), manic (β = 0.08), and depressive symptoms (β = 0.06), and a decrease in negative symptoms (β = −0.08). Conversely, positive LEs predicted fewer reality distortion (β = −0.04), disorganized (β = −0.04), and negative (β = −0.13) symptoms, and were unrelated to mood symptoms. A between-person approach to the same hypotheses confirmed that negative LEs predicted change in all symptoms, while positive LEs predicted change only in negative symptoms. In contrast, symptoms rarely predicted future LEs.
These findings confirm that LEs have an effect on symptoms, and thus contribute to the burden of psychotic disorders. That LEs increase positive symptoms and decrease negative symptoms suggest at least two different mechanisms underlying the relationship between LEs and symptoms. Our findings underscore the need for increased symptom monitoring following negative LEs, as symptoms may worsen during that time.
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