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Improving real-life functioning is the main goal of the most advanced integrated treatment programs in people with schizophrenia. The Italian Network for Research on Psychoses used network analysis in a four-year follow-up study to test whether the pattern of relationships among illness-related variables, personal resources and context-related factors differed between patients who were classified as recovered at follow-up versus those who did not recover. In a large sample (N=618) of clinically-stable, community-dwelling subjects with schizophrenia, the study demonstrated a considerable stability of the network structure. Functional capacity and everyday life skills had a high betweenness and closeness in the network at both baseline and follow-up, while psychopathological variables remained more peripheral. The network structure and connectivity of non-recovered patients were similar to those observed in the whole sample, but very different from those in recovered subjects, in which we found few connections only. These data strongly suggest that tightly coupled symptoms/dysfunctions tend to maintain each other’s activation, contributing to poor outcome in subjects with schizophrenia. The data suggest that early and integrated treatment plans, targeting variables with high centrality, might prevent the emergence of self-reinforcing networks of symptoms and dysfunctions in people with schizophrenia.
Honoraria, advisory board, or consulting fees from Angelini, Astra Zeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gedeon Richter Bulgaria, Innova-Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Lundbeck, Otsuka, Pfizer, and Pierre Fabre, for services not related to this abstract
An extensive literature regarding gender differences relevant to several aspects of schizophrenia is nowadays available. It includes some robust findings as well as some inconsistencies. The identification of gender differences and the understanding of their explanations may help to clarify the underlying etiopathogenetic mechanisms of specific aspects of the disorder.
The present study aimed at investigating gender differences on premorbid, clinical, cognitive and outcome indices, as well as their impact on recovery, in a large sample of patients with schizophrenia recruited within the multicenter study of the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses.
State-of-the-art instruments were used to assess the investigated domains. Group comparisons between male and female patients were performed on all considered indices. The associations of premorbid, clinical and cognitive indices with recovery in the two patient groups were investigated by means of multiple regressions.
Males with respect to females had a worse premorbid adjustment – limited to the academic dimension – an earlier age of onset, a higher frequency of history of substance and alcohol abuse, more severe negative symptoms (both avolition and expressive deficit), positive symptoms and impairment of social cognition. No gender difference was observed in neurocognition nor in the rates of recovery.
Although males showed some disadvantages in the clinical picture, this was not translated into a worse outcome. This finding may be related to the complex interplay of several factors acting as predictors or mediators of outcome.
In a cross-sectional study, the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses (INReP) found that variables relevant to the disease, personal resources and social context explain 53.8% of real-life functioning variance in a large sample of community dwelling people with schizophrenia. In a longitudinal study, the INReP aimed to identify baseline predictors of main domains of real-life functioning, i.e. work skills, interpersonal relationships and everyday life skills, at 4-year follow-up. We assessed psychopathology, social and non-social cognition, functional capacity, personal resources, and context-related factors, as well as real-life functioning as the main outcome. We used structural equation modeling (SEM) and latent change score (LCS) model to identify predictors of real-life functioning domains at follow-up and changes from baseline in the same domains. Six-hundred-eighteen subjects took part in the study. Neurocognition predicted everyday life and work skills; avolition predicted interpersonal relationships; positive symptoms work skills, and social cognition work skills and interpersonal functioning. Higher neurocognitive abilities predicted the improvement of everyday life and work skills, as well as of social cognition and functional capacity; better baseline social cognition predicted the improvement of work skills and interpersonal functioning, and better baseline everyday life skills predicted the improvement of work skills. Several variables which predict important aspects of functional outcome of people with schizophrenia are not routinely assessed and are not systematically targeted by intervention programs in community mental health services. A larger dissemination of practices such as cognitive training and personalized psychosocial interventions should be promoted in mental health care.
Central to recovery-oriented approaches in schizophrenia are treatment integration and personalization, targeting key variables beyond symptom reduction. The Italian network for research on psychoses conducted a study demonstrating, using network analysis, the central role of community activities in bridging the effects of symptoms, cognition, functional capacity and service engagement on real-word functioning. A 4-year follow-up study was recently completed and the presentation will illustrate the findings. Network analysis was used to test whether relationships among all variables at baseline were similar at follow-up. In addition, the network structure was compared between subjects classified as recovered or non-recovered at follow-up. Six hundred eighteen subjects were assessed at both baseline and 4-year follow-up. Results showed that the network structure was stable from baseline to follow-up, and the overall strength of the connections among variables did not significantly change. Functional capacity and everyday life skills were the most central variables in the network at both baseline and follow-up, while psychopathological variables were more peripheral. The network structure of non-recovered patients was similar to the one observed in the whole sample, but very different from that of recovered subjects, showing few connections among the different nodes. These data strongly suggest that connections among symptoms/dysfunctions tend to maintain over time, contributing to poor outcome in schizophrenia. Early treatment plans, targeting variables with high centrality, might prevent the emergence of self-reinforcing networks of symptoms and dysfunctions in people with schizophrenia.
Armida Mucci has been a consultant and/or advisor to or has received honoraria from Gedeon Richter Bulgaria, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Lundbeck, Otsuka, Pfizer and Pierre Fabre. None of these has any impact on this abstract and on the presented study.
A first empirical study into group schema therapy in older adults with mood disorders and personality disorder (PD) features has shown that brief group schema therapy has potential to decrease psychological distress and to change early maladaptive schemas (EMS). Effect sizes however were smaller than those found in similar studies in younger adults. Therefore, we set out to adapt the treatment protocol for older adults in order to enhance its feasibility and outcome in this age group. We examined this adapted protocol in 29 older adults (mean age 66 years) with PDs from four Dutch mental health institutes. The primary outcome was symptomatic distress, measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory. Secondary outcomes were measured by the Young Schema Questionnaire, the Schema Mode Inventory, and the short version of the Severity Indices of Personality Problems. Contrary to our expectations, the adapted treatment protocol yielded only a small effect size in our primary outcome, and no significant improvement in EMS, modes and personality functioning. Patients pointed out that they were more aware of their dysfunctional patterns, but maybe they had not been able yet to work on behavioural change due to this schema therapy treatment being too brief. We recommend more intensive treatment for older patients with PDs, as they might benefit from more schema therapy sessions, similar to the treatment dosage in younger PD patients. They might also benefit from a combination of group therapy and individual treatment sessions.
Key learning aims
(1) How to adapt group schema therapy for older adults.
(2) How to explore feasibility and outcome.
(3) Treat older personality disorder patients as intensively as younger adults.
Despite a growing understanding of disorders of consciousness following severe brain injury, the association between long-term impairment of consciousness, spontaneous brain oscillations, and underlying subcortical damage, and the ability of such information to aid patient diagnosis, remains incomplete.
Cross-sectional observational sample of 116 patients with a disorder of consciousness secondary to brain injury, collected prospectively at a tertiary center between 2011 and 2013. Multimodal analyses relating clinical measures of impairment, electroencephalographic measures of spontaneous brain activity, and magnetic resonance imaging data of subcortical atrophy were conducted in 2018.
In the final analyzed sample of 61 patients, systematic associations were found between electroencephalographic power spectra and subcortical damage. Specifically, the ratio of beta-to-delta relative power was negatively associated with greater atrophy in regions of the bilateral thalamus and globus pallidus (both left > right) previously shown to be preferentially atrophied in chronic disorders of consciousness. Power spectrum total density was also negatively associated with widespread atrophy in regions of the left globus pallidus, right caudate, and in the brainstem. Furthermore, we showed that the combination of demographics, encephalographic, and imaging data in an analytic framework can be employed to aid behavioral diagnosis.
These results ground, for the first time, electroencephalographic presentation detected with routine clinical techniques in the underlying brain pathology of disorders of consciousness and demonstrate how multimodal combination of clinical, electroencephalographic, and imaging data can be employed in potentially mitigating the high rates of misdiagnosis typical of this patient cohort.
To identify factors associated with suicide attempts using data from a large, 3-year, multinational follow-up study of schizophrenia (SOHO study).
All baseline characteristics of 8,871 adult patients with schizophrenia collected in patients included in the SOHO study were included in a GEE logistic regression post-hoc analysis comparing patients who attempted suicide during the study with those who did not.
A total of 384 (4.3%) patients attempted or committed suicide. The risk factors that resulted statistically associated with suicide attempt were a lifetime history of suicide attempts (OR 3.6 [95% CI 2.8, 4.6; p< 0.0001]), suicide attempts in the last 6 months (OR 2.5 [95% CI 1.8, 3.4; p< 0.0001]), prolactin-related side effects (OR 2.0 [95%CI 1.4, 2.9; p=0.0002]), CGI depression (OR 1.2 [95% CI 1.1, 1.3; p=0.0004]) and history of hospitalization for schizophrenia (OR 1.4 [95% CI 1.1, 1.8; p=0.009]).
In view of the observational design of the study and the post-hoc nature of the analysis, the identified risk factors should be confirmed by ad-hoc specifically designed studies.
A minimal brain damage examination was carried out in 73 schizophrenic patients divided into three groups according to their season of birth. Results showed no statistically significant difference among groups in the prevalence of neurological soft signs.
The interest in social adjustment of psychiatric patients has increased since potent therapeutic strategies have become available, allowing patient treatment within their natural social habitat. DSM III has formally recognized the need to evaluate social variables for each patient, introducing Axis V into its multiaxial system. This is of particular relevance for personality disorders where the main pathology is manifested within the social context. In this study, 94 patients with a DSM III-R diagnosis of Panic Disorder, Major Depression, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder have been evaluated with PDE (Personality Disorders Examination) to detect the presence of DSM III personality disorders, and with SAS (Social Adjustment Scale) to assess social adjustment. Results have shown that both Axis I and Axis II diagnoses affect social adjustment, though in a slightly different manner.
To evaluate the clinical and functional effects of cannabis abuse in patients at First Episode Psychosis (FEP) referring to Community Mental Health Centre (CMHC) “Bologna Ovest” and in patients admitted with a diagnosis of psychosis at the Modena Emergency Psychiatry Ward (EPW).
All FEP patients, aged 18-35, referring to CMCH “Bologna Ovest” in a 6-years period were evaluated and followed-up at 3 and 12 months. Of the 1559 psychiatric admissions at the Modena EPW in a 3-year period, those with a positive history for substance abuse were selected.
Among the 88 Bologna Ovest FEPs, 32% were cannabis abusers (FEP-c). In Bologna, FEP-c were more frequently natives (23.39% vs 31.13%; c sq=5.1; p=0.02) single (26.38% vs 0,0% c sq=7.3, p=0.007) and unemployed (13.50% vs 18.32%, c sq=2.4, p=0.1). Non FEP-c did not use any other drug (0.0% vs 26.1%, c sq=77.5; p< 0.001). A trend towards higher prevalence of hospital admission at follow-up was found for FEP-c (4.20% vs 2.4%, c sq=3.8, p=0.07). 22.0% of patients admitted at the Modena EPW had a positive history for substance abuse: of these, 7% were diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, which significantly correlated with the use of cannabinoids (alone or in association).
Our results enlighten that cannabis use is frequent among psychotic patients admitted to hospital and worsens clinical course of FEP patients, consistently with previous evidence (Hambrecht & Hafner, 1996; Hafner et al., 2004).
White matter abnormalities play a prominent role in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies showed a widespread decrease in fractional anisotropy (FA) in psychotic disorders.
To examine white and grey matter abnormalities in first episode psychosis (FEP).
We obtained T1-weighted and DTI magnetic resonance images (1.5 T) from 8 right-handed drug-naïve FEP patients and 8 healthy controls. The DTI data set was used to calculate FA maps; we carried-out optimized voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis of grey matter (GM) and FA maps using SPM2.
Patients were assessed with a neuropsychological battery comprising the Trail Making Test, the Stroop Colour Word Test, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and a test of Facial Affect recognition.
The voxelwise analysis showed decreased FA in the superior longitudinal and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculi, bilaterally, and in the left uncinate fasciculus. We observed reduced GM volume in the left frontal cortex (Brodmann areas [BA] 47, 13, 11, 10, and 9) and in right frontal (BA6), temporal (BA34) and occipital (BA 18, 19, and 30) cortex.
Neuropsychological assessment showed impaired executive function and deficit in facial affect recognition.
Our findings showed fronto-temporal disconnectivity in FEP and structural alterations in both cortical and subcortical regions.
Neuroanatomical findings are consistent with patients’ neuropsychological performance.
Further studies to establish a relationship between white and grey matter disarray on one hand and neuropsychological testing are needed.
The concept of Deficit Schizophrenia (DS) is considered one of the most promising attempts to reduce heterogeneity within schizophrenia. Few prospective studies tested its longitudinal stability and ability to predict clinical features and outcome at five years follow-up.
In the present study 51 patients with DS and 43 with Nondeficit Schizophrenia (NDS), previously included in an Italian Multicenter Study on Deficit Schizophrenia, were reassessed after 5 years from the initial evaluation. The diagnosis of DS and NDS was made by raters blind to initial categorization using the Schedule for the Deficit Syndrome. Clinical, neurocognitive and social outcome indices were also evaluated.
The follow-up diagnosis confirmed the baseline one in forty-two out of 51 patients with DS (82.4%) and in 35 out of 54 with NDS (79.6%). Clinical, neuropsychological and social functioning characterization of patients with DS also revealed high reproducibility with respect to baseline assessment: anergia and negative dimension, social isolation and neurocognitive impairment (in particular general cognitive abilities and attention impairment) were more severe in patients with DS than in those with NDS. In neither group a significant deterioration of clinical, neurocognitive and social functioning indices was found, in line with previous studies in patients with chronic schizophrenia.
Study findings provide evidence for the long-term stability of Deficit Schizophrenia.
Our Psychiatry Ward (SC Psichiatria, Maggiore della Carità Hospital, Novara) has a longstanding tradition in the training of clinicians (psychiatrists, but also non-psychiatrists) about the importance of the approach in helping relationships. This tradition reflects itself in the organization of the assistance to the acute psychiatric inpatients admitted to the Ward. In addition to treatment as usual, patients have the opportunity of being involved in several group activities. The activities are proposed to them, with an approach that varies according to the patient's lifetime diagnosis, current conditions, relational difficulties, etc. In other words, different activities may be proposed to different patients, in different ways.
To describe the integrated treatment approach we use in our Psychiatry Ward.
Group activities are guided by a group leader who is supported by one or two assistants whose role is to facilitate discussion. Activities include: Newspaper Reading (everyday in the morning, 1 hour); Music Listening Group (once a week; 1 hour); Cinema Group (once a week; 2 hours and a half); Fairytale Group (on alternating days in the evening, 1 hour).
More details will be supplied regarding the theoretical background for the group, the group features/implementation, and its specific objectives.
All the group activities integrate themselves in an early rehabilitation project tailored to each patients' characteristics and needs. Briefly, their main objectives include: 1) to help patients endorse their cognitive, emotional and relational skills; 2) to offer support to the crisis they are experiencing, which led them to admission to the Ward.
The Brief Negative Symptom Scale (BNSS) was developed to address the main limitations of the existing scales for the assessment of negative symptoms of schizophrenia. The initial validation of the scale by the group involved in its development demonstrated good convergent and discriminant validity, and a factor structure confirming the two domains of negative symptoms (reduced emotional/verbal expression and anhedonia/asociality/avolition). However, only relatively small samples of patients with schizophrenia were investigated. Further independent validation in large clinical samples might be instrumental to the broad diffusion of the scale in clinical research.
The present study aimed to examine the BNSS inter-rater reliability, convergent/discriminant validity and factor structure in a large Italian sample of outpatients with schizophrenia.
Our results confirmed the excellent inter-rater reliability of the BNSS (the intraclass correlation coefficient ranged from 0.81 to 0.98 for individual items and was 0.98 for the total score). The convergent validity measures had r values from 0.62 to 0.77, while the divergent validity measures had r values from 0.20 to 0.28 in the main sample (n = 912) and in a subsample without clinically significant levels of depression and extrapyramidal symptoms (n = 496). The BNSS factor structure was supported in both groups.
The study confirms that the BNSS is a promising measure for quantifying negative symptoms of schizophrenia in large multicenter clinical studies.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has demonstrated gender-specific prevalence and expressions across the different DSM definitions, since its first introduction in DSM-III. The DSM-5 recently introduced important revisions to PTSD symptomatological criteria. Aim of the present study is to explore whether gender moderates rates of DSM-5 PTSD expression in a non-clinical sample of survivors to a massive earthquake in Italy.
A sample of 450 survivors of the L’Aquila 2009 earthquake, previously investigated for the presence DSM-IV-TR PTSD, was reassessed according to DSM-5 criteria in order to explore gender differences. All subjects completed the Trauma and Loss Spectrum-Self Report (TALS-SR).
Females showed significantly higher DSM-5 PTSD rates and rates of endorsement of almost all DSM-5 PTSD criteria. Significant gender differences emerged in almost half of PTSD symptomatological criteria with women reporting higher rates in almost half of them, while men in only one (a new symptom in DSM-5: reckless or self-destructive behavior). Considering the impact of the three new DSM-5 symptoms on the diagnosis, significant gender differences emerged with these being crucial in almost half of the PTSD diagnoses in males but in about onefourth in females.
This study provides a contribution to the ongoing need for reassessment on how gender moderates rates of expression of particular disorders such as PTSD.
Negative symptoms have been associated with functional outcome of patients with schizophrenia by a large body of literature. However, in previous studies negative symptoms were regarded as a unitary construct, while recent literature data suggest that they include at least two factors, ‘Avolition” and ‘Poor Emotional Expression” (EE), that might show different relationships to functional outcome; moreover, the inter-relationships of negative symptoms, neurocognition, social cognition and real-life functioning are poorly understood.
A large multicenter study was carried out by the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses to model relationship between the negative symptom domains and real-life functioning, taking into account the role of other psychopathological dimensions including depression, neurocognition, functional capacity and social cognition.
A structural equation model was used to investigate direct and indirect effects of the 2 negative symptoms domains, other psychopathological dimensions, including depression, and neurocognition on real-life functioning. Social cognition and functional capacity were modeled as mediators.
In 921 patients with schizophrenia we found that the considered variables explained about 50% of real-life functioning variance. Avolition and functional capacity were the strongest independent predictors, followed by positive and disorganization dimensions, neurocognition and social cognition. EE had only a modest indirect effect on functioning. Neurocognition strongly predicted functional capacity and social cognition, which mediated its effects on functioning.
Our results support the heterogeneity of the two negative symptom domains. Only avolition is a strong predictor of functioning in real-life of patients with schizophrenia independent of social cognition, neurocognition and functional capacity.
The study was carried out within the project ‘Multicenter study on factors influencing real-life social functioning of people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia” of the Italian Network for Research on Psychoses.
Individual social capital has been recognized as having an important role for health and well-being. We tested the hypothesis that poor social capital increases internalized stigma and, in turn, can reduce empowerment among people with major depressive disorder (MDD).
Materials and methods:
This is a cross-sectional multisite study conducted on a sample of 516 people with MDD in 19 European countries. Structural Equation Models were developed to examine the direct and indirect effects of self-stigma and social capital on empowerment.
Social capital and self-stigma accounted for 56% of the variability in empowerment. Higher social capital was related to lower self-stigma (r = –0.72, P < 0.001) which, in turn, partially mediated the relationship between social capital and empowerment (r = 0.38, P < 0.001).
Social capital plays a key role in the appraisal of empowerment, both directly and through the indirect effect mediated by self-stigma. In order to improve empowerment of people with MDD, we identify strategies to foster individual social capital, and to overcome the negative consequences related to self-stigma for attainment of life goals.