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The cognitive profile in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS) is often characterized by a discrepancy between nonverbal vs. verbal reasoning skills, in favor of the latter skills. This dissociation has also been observed in memory, with verbal learning skills described as a relative strength. Yet the development of these skills is still to be investigated. We thus aimed to explore verbal learning longitudinally. Furthermore, we explored verbal learning and its respective associations with hippocampal alterations and psychosis, which remain largely unknown despite their high prevalence in 22q11.2DS.
In total, 332 individuals (173 with 22q11.2DS) aged 5–30 years completed a verbal-paired associates task. Mixed-models regression analyses were conducted to explore developmental trajectories with threefold objectives. First, verbal learning and retention trajectories were compared between 22q11.2DS vs. HC. Second, we examined hippocampal volume development in 22q11.2DS participants with lower vs. higher verbal learning performance. Third, we explored verbal learning trajectories in 22q11.2DS participants with vs. without positive psychotic symptoms and with vs. without a psychotic spectrum disorder (PSD).
Our findings first reveal lower verbal learning performance in 22q11.2DS, with a developmental plateau emerging from adolescence. Second, participants with lower verbal learning scores displayed a reduced left hippocampal tail volume. Third, participants with PSD showed a deterioration of verbal learning performance, independently of verbal reasoning skills.
Our study challenges the current view of preserved verbal learning skills in 22q11.2DS and highlights associations with specific hippocampal alterations. We further identify verbal learning as a novel cognitive marker for psychosis in 22q11.2DS.
Executive functions (EF) and focal attention have been identified as a weakness in the profile of 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS). However, due to a high variety of tasks used across previous studies, it remains unclear whether impairments may be more pronounced for specific subdomains of EF and focal attention. Furthermore, age-related changes have only been examined in a few studies, so far only yielding a partial view of the overall developmental profile.
In a broad age range (8–35 years) composed of longitudinal data, 183 participants (103 diagnosed with 22q11DS) completed an extensive assessment of EF and attention. To get a more comprehensive overview of specific versus global impairments, several tasks were assessed within multiple domains.
Results suggest differential impairments and trajectories in specific EF subdomains. Specifically, our findings suggest that individuals with 22q11DS not only showed lower overall inhibition skills, but also that initiation skills developed at a slower pace compared to healthy controls. Results are less clear regarding cognitive flexibility, updating and focal attention, for which performance strongly depended on the tasks that was selected to assess the domain.
Findings confirm and extend knowledge on differential developmental patterns of EF and attention domains in 22q11DS. They further stress the necessity to administer extensive, multifaceted evaluations to gain a more reliable overview of patients’ cognitive profile.
A dominant idea is that impaired capacities for theory of mind (ToM) are the reasons for impairments in social functioning in several conditions, including autism and schizophrenia. In this paper, we present empirical evidence that challenges this influential assumption.
We conducted three studies examining the association between ToM and social functioning in participants diagnosed with a non-affective psychotic disorder and healthy individuals. We used both the experience sampling method, a structured diary technique collecting information in daily-life, and a standardised questionnaire to assess social functioning. Analysed data are part of Wave 1 and Wave 3 of the Genetic Risk and Outcome of Psychosis (GROUP) study.
Results were highly consistent across studies and showed no significant association between the two constructs.
These findings question the leading assumption that social cognition is a prerequisite for social functioning, but rather suggest that social cognition is possibly a result of basic social interactive capacities.
Patients with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) present a high risk of developing psychosis. While clinical and cognitive predictors for the conversion towards a full-blown psychotic disorder are well defined and largely used in practice, neural biomarkers do not yet exist. However, a number of investigations indicated an association between abnormalities in cortical morphology and higher symptoms severities in patients with 22q11DS. Nevertheless, few studies included homogeneous groups of patients differing in their psychotic symptoms profile.
In this study, we included 22 patients meeting the criteria for an ultra-high-risk (UHR) psychotic state and 22 age-, gender- and IQ-matched non-UHR patients. Measures of cortical morphology, including cortical thickness, volume, surface area and gyrification, were compared between the two groups using mass-univariate and multivariate comparisons. Furthermore, the development of these measures was tested in the two groups using a mixed-model approach.
Our results showed differences in cortical volume and surface area in UHR patients compared with non-UHR. In particular, we found a positive association between surface area and the rate of change of global functioning, suggesting that higher surface area is predictive of improved functioning with age. We also observed accelerated cortical thinning during adolescence in UHR patients with 22q11DS.
These results, although preliminary, suggest that alterations in cortical volume and surface area as well as altered development of cortical thickness may be associated to a greater probability to develop psychosis in 22q11DS.