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Schizophrenia (SZ) is a complex brain disorder linked to cognitive and neurostructural abnormalities that involves genetic and environmental factors with obstetric complications (OCs) at birth conferring a high risk for the disease. Indeed, current research in the general population describes the deleterious effect of OCs on cognitive performance in adulthood. With this rationale, we aim to review the relationship between OCs and cognition in SZ and related psychotic disorders.
A systematic review and meta-analysis describing cognitive function and OCs in patients with SZ and related disorders were conducted. PubMed, EmBase, SCOPUS, and the Cochrane Library were systematically searched to identify eligible studies up to January 2022. We calculated the effect sizes (Hedges' g) of cognitive domains within each study and quantified the proportion of between-study variability using the I2 statistic. Homogeneity was assessed using the Q-statistic (X2). The study was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42018094238).
A total of 4124 studies were retrieved, with 10 studies meeting inclusion criteria for the systematic review and eight for meta-analysis. SZ subjects with OCs showed poor verbal memory [Hedges' g = −0.89 (95% CI −1.41 to −0.37), p < 0.001] and working memory performance [Hedges' g = −1.47 (95% CI −2.89 to −0.06), p = 0.01] in a random-effect model compared to those without OCs.
OCs appear to have a moderate impact on specific cognitive such as working memory and verbal memory. Our findings suggest that OCs are associated with brain development and might underlie the cognitive abnormalities described at onset of psychosis.
Clinical intervention in early stages of psychotic disorders is crucial for the prevention of severe symptomatology trajectories and poor outcomes. Genetic variability is studied as a promising modulator of prognosis, thus novel approaches considering the polygenic nature of these complex phenotypes are required to unravel the mechanisms underlying the early progression of the disorder.
The sample comprised of 233 first-episode psychosis (FEP) subjects with clinical and cognitive data assessed periodically for a 2-year period and 150 matched controls. Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, education attainment and cognitive performance were used to assess the genetic risk of FEP and to characterize their association with premorbid, baseline and progression of clinical and cognitive status.
Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and cognitive performance PRSs were associated with an increased risk of FEP [false discovery rate (FDR) ⩽ 0.027]. In FEP patients, increased cognitive PRSs were found for FEP patients with more cognitive reserve (FDR ⩽ 0.037). PRSs reflecting a genetic liability for improved cognition were associated with a better course of symptoms, functionality and working memory (FDR ⩽ 0.039). Moreover, the PRS of depression was associated with a worse trajectory of the executive function and the general cognitive status (FDR ⩽ 0.001).
Our study provides novel evidence of the polygenic bases of psychosis and its clinical manifestation in its first stage. The consistent effect of cognitive PRSs on the early clinical progression suggests that the mechanisms underlying the psychotic episode and its severity could be partially independent.
Deficits in emotional intelligence (EI) were detected in patients with bipolar disorder (BD), but little is known about whether these deficits are already present in patients after presenting a first episode mania (FEM). We sought (i) to compare EI in patients after a FEM, chronic BD and healthy controls (HC); (ii) to examine the effect exerted on EI by socio-demographic, clinical and neurocognitive variables in FEM patients.
The Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ) was calculated with the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). Performance on MSCEIT was compared among the three groups using generalized linear models. In patients after a FEM, the influence of socio-demographic, clinical and neurocognitive variables on the EIQ was examined using a linear regression model.
In total, 184 subjects were included (FEM n = 48, euthymic chronic BD type I n = 75, HC n = 61). BD patients performed significantly worse than HC on the EIQ [mean difference (MD) = 10.09, standard error (s.e.) = 3.14, p = 0.004] and on the understanding emotions branch (MD = 7.46, s.e. = 2.53, p = 0.010). FEM patients did not differ from HC and BD on other measures of MSCEIT. In patients after a FEM, EIQ was positively associated with female sex (β = −0.293, p = 0.034) and verbal memory performance (β = 0.374, p = 0.008). FEM patients performed worse than HC but better than BD on few neurocognitive domains.
Patients after a FEM showed preserved EI, while patients in later stages of BD presented lower EIQ, suggesting that impairments in EI might result from the burden of disease and neurocognitive decline, associated with the chronicity of the illness.
A cumulative environmental exposure score for schizophrenia (exposome score for schizophrenia [ES-SCZ]) may provide potential utility for risk stratification and outcome prediction. Here, we investigated whether ES-SCZ was associated with functioning in patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorder, unaffected siblings, and healthy controls.
This cross-sectional sample consisted of 1,261 patients, 1,282 unaffected siblings, and 1,525 healthy controls. The Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scale was used to assess functioning. ES-SCZ was calculated based on our previously validated method. The association between ES-SCZ and the GAF dimensions (symptom and disability) was analyzed by applying regression models in each group (patients, siblings, and controls). Additional models included polygenic risk score for schizophrenia (PRS-SCZ) as a covariate.
ES-SCZ was associated with the GAF dimensions in patients (symptom: B = −1.53, p-value = 0.001; disability: B = −1.44, p-value = 0.001), siblings (symptom: B = −3.07, p-value < 0.001; disability: B = −2.52, p-value < 0.001), and healthy controls (symptom: B = −1.50, p-value < 0.001; disability: B = −1.31, p-value < 0.001). The results remained the same after adjusting for PRS-SCZ. The degree of associations of ES-SCZ with both symptom and disability dimensions were higher in unaffected siblings than in patients and controls. By analyzing an independent dataset (the Genetic Risk and Outcome of Psychosis study), we replicated the results observed in the patient group.
Our findings suggest that ES-SCZ shows promise for enhancing risk prediction and stratification in research practice. From a clinical perspective, ES-SCZ may aid in efforts of clinical characterization, operationalizing transdiagnostic clinical staging models, and personalizing clinical management.
There is evidence that environmental and genetic risk factors for schizophrenia spectrum disorders are transdiagnostic and mediated in part through a generic pathway of affective dysregulation.
We analysed to what degree the impact of schizophrenia polygenic risk (PRS-SZ) and childhood adversity (CA) on psychosis outcomes was contingent on co-presence of affective dysregulation, defined as significant depressive symptoms, in (i) NEMESIS-2 (n = 6646), a representative general population sample, interviewed four times over nine years and (ii) EUGEI (n = 4068) a sample of patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorder, the siblings of these patients and controls.
The impact of PRS-SZ on psychosis showed significant dependence on co-presence of affective dysregulation in NEMESIS-2 [relative excess risk due to interaction (RERI): 1.01, p = 0.037] and in EUGEI (RERI = 3.39, p = 0.048). This was particularly evident for delusional ideation (NEMESIS-2: RERI = 1.74, p = 0.003; EUGEI: RERI = 4.16, p = 0.019) and not for hallucinatory experiences (NEMESIS-2: RERI = 0.65, p = 0.284; EUGEI: −0.37, p = 0.547). A similar and stronger pattern of results was evident for CA (RERI delusions and hallucinations: NEMESIS-2: 3.02, p < 0.001; EUGEI: 6.44, p < 0.001; RERI delusional ideation: NEMESIS-2: 3.79, p < 0.001; EUGEI: 5.43, p = 0.001; RERI hallucinatory experiences: NEMESIS-2: 2.46, p < 0.001; EUGEI: 0.54, p = 0.465).
The results, and internal replication, suggest that the effects of known genetic and non-genetic risk factors for psychosis are mediated in part through an affective pathway, from which early states of delusional meaning may arise.
This study attempted to replicate whether a bias in probabilistic reasoning, or ‘jumping to conclusions’(JTC) bias is associated with being a sibling of a patient with schizophrenia spectrum disorder; and if so, whether this association is contingent on subthreshold delusional ideation.
Data were derived from the EUGEI project, a 25-centre, 15-country effort to study psychosis spectrum disorder. The current analyses included 1261 patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorder, 1282 siblings of patients and 1525 healthy comparison subjects, recruited in Spain (five centres), Turkey (three centres) and Serbia (one centre). The beads task was used to assess JTC bias. Lifetime experience of delusional ideation and hallucinatory experiences was assessed using the Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences. General cognitive abilities were taken into account in the analyses.
JTC bias was positively associated not only with patient status but also with sibling status [adjusted relative risk (aRR) ratio : 4.23 CI 95% 3.46–5.17 for siblings and aRR: 5.07 CI 95% 4.13–6.23 for patients]. The association between JTC bias and sibling status was stronger in those with higher levels of delusional ideation (aRR interaction in siblings: 3.77 CI 95% 1.67–8.51, and in patients: 2.15 CI 95% 0.94–4.92). The association between JTC bias and sibling status was not stronger in those with higher levels of hallucinatory experiences.
These findings replicate earlier findings that JTC bias is associated with familial liability for psychosis and that this is contingent on the degree of delusional ideation but not hallucinations.
Functional impairment is a defining feature of psychotic disorders. A range of factors has been shown to influence functioning, including negative symptoms, cognitive performance and cognitive reserve (CR). However, it is not clear how these variables may affect functioning in first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients. This 2-year follow-up study aimed to explore the possible mediating effects of CR on the relationship between cognitive performance or specific clinical symptoms and functional outcome.
A prospective study of non-affective FEP patients was performed (211 at baseline and 139 at follow-up). CR was entered in a path analysis model as potential mediators between cognitive domains or clinical symptoms and functioning.
At baseline, the relationship between clinical variables or cognitive performance and functioning was not mediated by CR. At follow-up, the effect of attention (p = 0.003) and negative symptoms (p = 0.012) assessed at baseline on functioning was partially mediated by CR (p = 0.032 and 0.016), whereas the relationship between verbal memory (p = 0.057) and functioning was mediated by CR (p = 0.014). Verbal memory and positive and total subscales of PANSS assessed at follow-up were partially mediated by CR and the effect of working memory on functioning was totally mediated by CR.
Our results showed the influence of CR in mediating the relationship between cognitive domains or clinical symptoms and functioning in FEP. In particular, CR partially mediated the relationship between some cognitive domains or clinical symptoms and functioning at follow-up. Therefore, CR could improve our understanding of the long-term functioning of patients with a non-affective FEP.
Around 30% of patients with schizophrenia are considered treatment resistant (TRS). Only around 40% of TRS patients respond to clozapine. Long acting injectable antipsychotics could be a useful augmentation strategy for nonresponders.
We conducted a multicenter, observational, naturalistic, retrospective, 6-month mirror-image study to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of clozapine and paliperidone palmitate association in 50 patients with TRS and other psychotic disorders. Clinical outcomes and side effects were systematically assessed.
Six months after starting the combined treatment, participants showed a significant relief of symptoms, decreasing the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale total score from 18.32 ± 7.71 to 7.84 ± 5.16 (p < 0.001). The number of hospitalizations, the length of hospital stays and the number of visits to emergency services also decreased, while an increase of the functionality was observed (Personal and Social Performance total score increased from 46.06 ± 118.7 to 60.86 ± 18.68, p < 0.001). There was also a significant decrease in the number and severity of side effects with the combination therapy, decreasing the Udvalg for Kliniske Undersogelser total score from 10.76 ± 8.04 to 8.82 ± 6.63 (p = 0.004).
This study provides the first evidence that combining clozapine with paliperidone palmitate in patients with TRS and other psychotic disorders could be effective and safe, suggesting further research with randomized controlled trials of augmentation strategies for clozapine nonresponder patients.
Policy Significance Statement:
Patients with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia show a variable response to antipsychotic treatments. Around 30% of patients are considered treatment resistant, indicated by insufficient symptom control to at least two different drugs. In these resistant cases, clozapine should be indicated, as it has shown to be superior to other options. However, only 40% of patients respond to clozapine, being necessary to establish which treatments could best potentiate clozapine action. Combining clozapine with long acting injectable antipsychotics, and particularly paliperidone palmitate, could be a useful strategy. We conducted a multicenter study of 50 patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders comparing the efficacy and tolerability in the 6 month-period prior and after starting the clozapine and paliperidone palmitate association. Our study suggests that this combination could be effective and safer, laying the groundwork for future clinical trials with this combination.
Previous literature supports antipsychotics’ (AP) efficacy in acute first-episode psychosis (FEP) in terms of symptomatology and functioning but also a cognitive detrimental effect. However, regarding functional recovery in stabilised patients, these effects are not clear. Therefore, the main aim of this study is to investigate dopaminergic/anticholinergic burden of (AP) on psychosocial functioning in FEP. We also examined whether cognitive impairment may mediate these effects on functioning.
A total of 157 FEP participants were assessed at study entry, and at 2 months and 2 years after remission of the acute episode. The primary outcomes were social functioning as measured by the functioning assessment short test (FAST). Cognitive domains were assessed as potential mediators. Dopaminergic and anticholinergic AP burden on 2-year psychosocial functioning [measured with chlorpromazine (CPZ) and drug burden index] were independent variables. Secondary outcomes were clinical and socio-demographic variables.
Mediation analysis found a statistical but not meaningful contribution of dopaminergic receptor blockade burden to worse functioning mediated by cognition (for every 600 CPZ equivalent points, 2-year FAST score increased 1.38 points). Regarding verbal memory and attention, there was an indirect effect of CPZ burden on FAST (b = 0.0045, 95% CI 0.0011–0.0091) and (b = 0.0026, 95% CI 0.0001–0.0006) respectively. However, only verbal memory post hoc analyses showed a significant indirect effect (b = 0.009, 95% CI 0.033–0.0151) adding premorbid IQ as covariate. We did not find significant results for anticholinergic burden.
CPZ dose effect over functioning is mediated by verbal memory but this association appears barely relevant.
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