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Childhood maltreatment (CM) is a strong risk factor for psychiatric disorders but serves in its current definitions as an umbrella for various fundamentally different childhood experiences. As first step toward a more refined analysis of the impact of CM, our objective is to revisit the relation of abuse and neglect, major subtypes of CM, with symptoms across disorders.
Three longitudinal studies of major depressive disorder (MDD, N = 1240), bipolar disorder (BD, N = 1339), and schizophrenia (SCZ, N = 577), each including controls (N = 881), were analyzed. Multivariate regression models were used to examine the relation between exposure to abuse, neglect, or their combination to the odds for MDD, BD, SCZ, and symptoms across disorders. Bidirectional Mendelian randomization (MR) was used to probe causality, using genetic instruments of abuse and neglect derived from UK Biobank data (N = 143 473).
Abuse was the stronger risk factor for SCZ (OR 3.51, 95% CI 2.17–5.67) and neglect for BD (OR 2.69, 95% CI 2.09–3.46). Combined CM was related to increased risk exceeding additive effects of abuse and neglect for MDD (RERI = 1.4) and BD (RERI = 1.1). Across disorders, abuse was associated with hallucinations (OR 2.16, 95% CI 1.55–3.01) and suicide attempts (OR 2.16, 95% CI 1.55–3.01) whereas neglect was associated with agitation (OR 1.24, 95% CI 1.02–1.51) and reduced need for sleep (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.08–2.48). MR analyses were consistent with a bidirectional causal effect of abuse with SCZ (IVWforward = 0.13, 95% CI 0.01–0.24).
Childhood abuse and neglect are associated with different risks to psychiatric symptoms and disorders. Unraveling the origin of these differences may advance understanding of disease etiology and ultimately facilitate development of improved personalized treatment strategies.
Two established staging models outline the longitudinal progression in bipolar disorder (BD) based on episode recurrence or inter-episodic functioning. However, underlying neurobiological mechanisms and corresponding biomarkers remain unexplored. This study aimed to investigate if global and (sub)cortical brain structures, along with brain-predicted age difference (brain-PAD) reflect illness progression as conceptualized in these staging models, potentially identifying brain-PAD as a biomarker for BD staging.
In total, 199 subjects with bipolar-I-disorder and 226 control subjects from the Dutch Bipolar Cohort with a high-quality T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging scan were analyzed. Global and (sub)cortical brain measures and brain-PAD (the difference between biological and chronological age) were estimated. Associations between individual brain measures and the stages of both staging models were explored.
A higher brain-PAD (higher biological age than chronological age) correlated with an increased likelihood of being in a higher stage of the inter-episodic functioning model, but not in the model based on number of mood episodes. However, after correcting for the confounding factors lithium-use and comorbid anxiety, the association lost significance. Global and (sub)cortical brain measures showed no significant association with the stages.
These results suggest that brain-PAD may be associated with illness progression as defined by impaired inter-episodic functioning. Nevertheless, the significance of this association changed after considering lithium-use and comorbid anxiety disorders. Further research is required to disentangle the intricate relationship between brain-PAD, illness stages, and lithium intake or anxiety disorders. This study provides a foundation for potentially using brain-PAD as a biomarker for illness progression.
It has not yet been determined if the commonly reported cannabis–psychosis association is limited to individuals with pre-existing genetic risk for psychotic disorders.
We examined whether the relationship between polygenic risk score for schizophrenia (PRS-Sz) and psychotic-like experiences (PLEs), as measured by the Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences-42 (CAPE-42) questionnaire, is mediated or moderated by lifetime cannabis use at 16 years of age in 1740 of the individuals of the European IMAGEN cohort. Secondary analysis examined the relationships between lifetime cannabis use, PRS-Sz and the various sub-scales of the CAPE-42. Sensitivity analyses including covariates, including a PRS for cannabis use, were conducted and results were replicated using data from 1223 individuals in the Dutch Utrecht cannabis cohort.
PRS-Sz significantly predicted cannabis use (p = 0.027) and PLE (p = 0.004) in the IMAGEN cohort. In the full model, considering PRS-Sz and covariates, cannabis use was also significantly associated with PLE in IMAGEN (p = 0.007). Results remained consistent in the Utrecht cohort and through sensitivity analyses. Nevertheless, there was no evidence of a mediation or moderation effects.
These results suggest that cannabis use remains a risk factor for PLEs, over and above genetic vulnerability for schizophrenia. This research does not support the notion that the cannabis–psychosis link is limited to individuals who are genetically predisposed to psychosis and suggests a need for research focusing on cannabis-related processes in psychosis that cannot be explained by genetic vulnerability.
Studying phenotypic and genetic characteristics of age at onset (AAO) and polarity at onset (PAO) in bipolar disorder can provide new insights into disease pathology and facilitate the development of screening tools.
To examine the genetic architecture of AAO and PAO and their association with bipolar disorder disease characteristics.
Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) and polygenic score (PGS) analyses of AAO (n = 12 977) and PAO (n = 6773) were conducted in patients with bipolar disorder from 34 cohorts and a replication sample (n = 2237). The association of onset with disease characteristics was investigated in two of these cohorts.
Earlier AAO was associated with a higher probability of psychotic symptoms, suicidality, lower educational attainment, not living together and fewer episodes. Depressive onset correlated with suicidality and manic onset correlated with delusions and manic episodes. Systematic differences in AAO between cohorts and continents of origin were observed. This was also reflected in single-nucleotide variant-based heritability estimates, with higher heritabilities for stricter onset definitions. Increased PGS for autism spectrum disorder (β = −0.34 years, s.e. = 0.08), major depression (β = −0.34 years, s.e. = 0.08), schizophrenia (β = −0.39 years, s.e. = 0.08), and educational attainment (β = −0.31 years, s.e. = 0.08) were associated with an earlier AAO. The AAO GWAS identified one significant locus, but this finding did not replicate. Neither GWAS nor PGS analyses yielded significant associations with PAO.
AAO and PAO are associated with indicators of bipolar disorder severity. Individuals with an earlier onset show an increased polygenic liability for a broad spectrum of psychiatric traits. Systematic differences in AAO across cohorts, continents and phenotype definitions introduce significant heterogeneity, affecting analyses.
Childhood trauma increases risk for psychopathology and cognitive impairment. Prior research mainly focused on the hippocampus and amygdala in single diagnostic categories. However, other brain regions may be impacted by trauma as well, and effects may be independent of diagnosis. This cross-sectional study investigated cortical and subcortical gray matter volume in relation to childhood trauma severity.
We included 554 participants: 250 bipolar-I patients, 84 schizophrenia-spectrum patients and 220 healthy individuals without a psychiatric history. Participants filled in the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Anatomical T1 MRI scans were acquired at 3T, regional brain morphology was assessed using Freesurfer.
In the total sample, trauma-related gray matter reductions were found in the frontal lobe (β = −0.049, p = 0.008; q = 0.048), this effect was driven by the right medial orbitofrontal, paracentral, superior frontal regions and the left precentral region. No trauma-related volume reductions were observed in any other (sub)cortical lobes nor the hippocampus or amygdala, trauma-by-group (i.e. both patient groups and healthy subjects) interaction effects were absent. A categorical approach confirmed a pattern of more pronounced frontal gray matter reductions in individuals reporting multiple forms of trauma and across quartiles of cumulative trauma scores. Similar dose−response patterns were revealed within the bipolar and healthy subgroups, but did not reach significance in schizophrenia-spectrum patients.
Findings show that childhood trauma is linked to frontal gray matter reductions, independent of psychiatric morbidity. Our results indicate that childhood trauma importantly contributes to the neurobiological changes commonly observed across psychiatric disorders. Frontal volume alterations may underpin affective and cognitive disturbances observed in trauma-exposed individuals.
The output of many healthy physiological systems displays fractal fluctuations with self-similar temporal structures. Altered fractal patterns are associated with pathological conditions. There is evidence that patients with bipolar disorder have altered daily behaviors.
To test whether fractal patterns in motor activity are altered in patients with bipolar disorder, we analyzed 2-week actigraphy data collected from 106 patients with bipolar disorder type I in a euthymic state, 73 unaffected siblings of patients, and 76 controls. To examine the link between fractal patterns and symptoms, we analyzed 180-day actigraphy and mood symptom data that were simultaneously collected from 14 patients.
Compared to controls, patients showed excessive regularity in motor activity fluctuations at small time scales (<1.5 h) as quantified by a larger scaling exponent (α1 > 1), indicating a more rigid motor control system. α1 values of siblings were between those of patients and controls. Further examinations revealed that the group differences in α1 were only significant in females. Sex also affected the group differences in fractal patterns at larger time scales (>2 h) as quantified by scaling exponent α2. Specifically, female patients and siblings had a smaller α2 compared to female controls, indicating more random activity fluctuations; while male patients had a larger α2 compared to male controls. Interestingly, a higher weekly depression score was associated with a lower α1 in the subsequent week.
Our results show sex- and scale-dependent alterations in fractal activity regulation in patients with bipolar disorder. The mechanisms underlying the alterations are yet to be determined.
Bipolar disorder (BD) is a highly heritable mood disorder with complex genetic architecture and poorly understood etiology. Previous transcriptomic BD studies have had inconsistent findings due to issues such as small sample sizes and difficulty in adequately accounting for confounders like medication use.
We performed a differential expression analysis in a well-characterized BD case-control sample (Nsubjects = 480) by RNA sequencing of whole blood. We further performed co-expression network analysis, functional enrichment, and cell type decomposition, and integrated differentially expressed genes with genetic risk.
While we observed widespread differential gene expression patterns between affected and unaffected individuals, these effects were largely linked to lithium treatment at the time of blood draw (FDR < 0.05, Ngenes = 976) rather than BD diagnosis itself (FDR < 0.05, Ngenes = 6). These lithium-associated genes were enriched for cell signaling and immune response functional annotations, among others, and were associated with neutrophil cell-type proportions, which were elevated in lithium users. Neither genes with altered expression in cases nor in lithium users were enriched for BD, schizophrenia, and depression genetic risk based on information from genome-wide association studies, nor was gene expression associated with polygenic risk scores for BD.
These findings suggest that BD is associated with minimal changes in whole blood gene expression independent of medication use but emphasize the importance of accounting for medication use and cell type heterogeneity in psychiatric transcriptomic studies. The results of this study add to mounting evidence of lithium's cell signaling and immune-related mechanisms.
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