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People with psychosis in Malawi have very limited access to timely assessment and evidence-based care, leading to a long duration of untreated psychosis and persistent disability. Most people with psychosis in the country consult traditional or religious healers. Stigmatising attitudes are common and services have limited capacity, particularly in rural areas. This paper, focusing on pathways to care for psychosis in Malawi, is based on the Wellcome Trust Psychosis Flagship Report on the Landscape of Mental Health Services for Psychosis in Malawi. Its purpose is to inform Psychosis Recovery Orientation in Malawi by Improving Services and Engagement (PROMISE), a longitudinal study that aims to build on existing services to develop sustainable psychosis detection systems and management pathways to promote recovery.
Tackling Scotland's drug-related deaths and improving outcomes from substance misuse treatments, including residential rehabilitation, is a national priority.
To analyse and report outcomes up to 4 years after attendance at a substance misuse residential rehabilitation programme (Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme).
In total, 145 participants were recruited to this longitudinal quantitative cohort study of an abstinence-based residential rehabilitation programme based on the therapeutic community model; 87 of these participants were followed up at 4 years. Outcomes are reported for seven subsections of the Addiction Severity Index-X (ASI-X), together with frequency of alcohol use, heroin use, injecting drug use and rates of abstinence from substances of misuse.
Significant improvement in most outcomes at 4 years compared with admission scores were found. Completing the programme was associated with greater rates of abstinence, reduced alcohol use and improvements in alcohol status score (Mann–Whitney U = 626, P = 0.013), work satisfaction score (U = 596, P = 0.016) and psychiatric status score (U = 562, P = 0.007) on the ASI-X, in comparison with non-completion. Abstinence rates improved from 12% at baseline to 48% at 4 years, with the rate for those completing the programme increasing from 14.5% to 60.7% (χ2(2, 87) = 9.738, P = 0.002). Remaining abstinent from substances at follow-up was associated with better outcomes in the medical (U = 540, P < 0.001), psychiatric (U = 273.5, P < 0.001) and alcohol (U = 322.5, P < 0.001) subsections of the ASI-X.
Attending this abstinence-based rehabilitation programme was associated with positive changes in psychological and social well-being and harm reduction from substance use at 4-year follow-up, with stability of change from years 1 to 4.
Childhood trauma and adversity are common across societies and have strong associations with physical and psychiatric morbidity throughout the life-course. One possible mechanism through which childhood trauma may predispose individuals to poor psychiatric outcomes is via associations with brain structure. This study aimed to elucidate the associations between childhood trauma and brain structure across two large, independent community cohorts.
The two samples comprised (i) a subsample of Generation Scotland (n=1,024); and (ii) individuals from UK Biobank (n=27,202). This comprised n=28,226 for mega-analysis. MRI scans were processed using Free Surfer, providing cortical, subcortical, and global brain metrics. Regression models were used to determine associations between childhood trauma measures and brain metrics and psychiatric phenotypes.
Childhood trauma associated with lifetime depression across cohorts (OR 1.06 GS, 1.23 UKB), and related to early onset and recurrent course within both samples. There was evidence for associations between childhood trauma and structural brain metrics. This included reduced global brain volume, and reduced cortical surface area with highest effects in the frontal (β=−0.0385, SE=0.0048, p(FDR)=5.43x10−15) and parietal lobes (β=−0.0387, SE=0.005, p(FDR)=1.56x10−14). At a regional level the ventral diencephalon (VDc) displayed significant associations with childhood trauma measures across both cohorts and at mega-analysis (β=−0.0232, SE=0.0039, p(FDR)=2.91x10−8). There were also associations with reduced hippocampus, thalamus, and nucleus accumbens volumes.
Associations between childhood trauma and reduced global and regional brain volumes were found, across two independent UK cohorts, and at mega-analysis. This provides robust evidence for a lasting effect of childhood adversity on brain structure.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a polygenic disorder associated with brain alterations but until recently, there have been no brain-based metrics to quantify individual-level variation in brain morphology. Here, we evaluated and compared the performance of a new brain-based ‘Regional Vulnerability Index’ (RVI) with polygenic risk scores (PRS), in the context of MDD. We assessed associations with syndromal MDD in an adult sample (N = 702, age = 59 ± 10) and with subclinical depressive symptoms in a longitudinal adolescent sample (baseline N = 3,825, age = 10 ± 1; 2-year follow-up N = 2,081, age = 12 ± 1).
MDD-RVIs quantify the correlation of the individual’s corresponding brain metric with the expected pattern for MDD derived in an independent sample. Using the same methodology across samples, subject-specific MDD-PRS and six MDD-RVIs based on different brain modalities (subcortical volume, cortical thickness, cortical surface area, mean diffusivity, fractional anisotropy, and multimodal) were computed.
In adults, MDD-RVIs (based on white matter and multimodal measures) were more strongly associated with MDD (β = 0.099–0.281, PFDR = 0.001–0.043) than MDD-PRS (β = 0.056–0.152, PFDR = 0.140–0.140). In adolescents, depressive symptoms were associated with MDD-PRS at baseline and follow-up (β = 0.084–0.086, p = 1.38 × 10−4−4.77 × 10−4) but not with any MDD-RVIs (β < 0.05, p > 0.05).
Our results potentially indicate the ability of brain-based risk scores to capture a broader range of risk exposures than genetic risk scores in adults and are also useful in helping us to understand the temporal origins of depression-related brain features. Longitudinal data, specific to the developmental period and on white matter measures, will be useful in informing risk for subsequent psychiatric illness.
Research has shown that 20–30% of prisoners meet the diagnostic criteria for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Methylphenidate reduces ADHD symptoms, but effects in prisoners are uncertain because of comorbid mental health and substance use disorders.
To estimate the efficacy of an osmotic-release oral system methylphenidate (OROS-methylphenidate) in reducing ADHD symptoms in young adult prisoners with ADHD.
We conducted an 8-week parallel-arm, double-blind, randomised placebo-controlled trial of OROS-methylphenidate versus placebo in male prisoners (aged 16–25 years) meeting the DSM-5 criteria for ADHD. Primary outcome was ADHD symptoms at 8 weeks, using the investigator-rated Connors Adult ADHD Rating Scale (CAARS-O). Thirteen secondary outcomes were measured, including emotional dysregulation, mind wandering, violent attitudes, mental health symptoms, and prison officer and educational staff ratings of behaviour and aggression.
In the OROS-methylphenidate arm, mean CAARS-O score at 8 weeks was estimated to be reduced by 0.57 points relative to the placebo arm (95% CI −2.41 to 3.56), and non-significant. The responder rate, defined as a 20% reduction in CAARS-O score, was 48.3% for the OROS-methylphenidate arm and 47.9% for the placebo arm. No statistically significant trial arm differences were detected for any of the secondary outcomes. Mean final titrated dose was 53.8 mg in the OROS-methylphenidate arm.
ADHD symptoms did not respond to OROS-methylphenidate in young adult prisoners. The findings do not support routine treatment with OROS-methylphenidate in this population. Further research is needed to evaluate effects of higher average dosing and adherence to treatment, multi-modal treatments and preventative interventions in the community.
Poor research integrity is increasingly recognised as a serious problem in science. We outline some evidence for this claim and introduce the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) journals’ Research Integrity Group, which has been created to address this problem.
Evidence suggests that cognitive subtypes exist in schizophrenia that may reflect different neurobiological trajectories. We aimed to identify whether IQ-derived cognitive subtypes are present in early-phase schizophrenia-spectrum disorder and examine their relationship with brain structure and markers of neuroinflammation.
161 patients with recent-onset schizophrenia spectrum disorder (<5 years) were recruited. Estimated premorbid and current IQ were calculated using the Wechsler Test of Adult Reading and a 4-subtest WAIS-III. Cognitive subtypes were identified with k-means clustering. Freesurfer was used to analyse 3.0 T MRI. Blood samples were analysed for hs-CRP, IL-1RA, IL-6 and TNF-α.
Three subtypes were identified indicating preserved (PIQ), deteriorated (DIQ) and compromised (CIQ) IQ. Absolute total brain volume was significantly smaller in CIQ compared to PIQ and DIQ, and intracranial volume was smaller in CIQ than PIQ (F(2, 124) = 6.407, p = 0.002) indicative of premorbid smaller brain size in the CIQ group. CIQ had higher levels of hs-CRP than PIQ (F(2, 131) = 5.01, p = 0.008). PIQ showed differentially impaired processing speed and verbal learning compared to IQ-matched healthy controls.
The findings add validity of a neurodevelopmental subtype of schizophrenia identified by comparing estimated premorbid and current IQ and characterised by smaller premorbid brain volume and higher measures of low-grade inflammation (CRP).
Antipsychotic treatment resistance affects up to a third of individuals with schizophrenia. Of those affected, 70–84% are reported to be treatment resistant from the outset. This raises the possibility that the neurobiological mechanisms of treatment resistance emerge before the onset of psychosis and have a neurodevelopmental origin. Neuropsychological investigations can offer important insights into the nature, origin and pathophysiology of treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS), but methodological limitations in a still emergent field of research have obscured the neuropsychological discriminability of TRS. We report on the first systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate neuropsychological differences between TRS patients and treatment-responsive controls across 17 published studies (1864 participants). Five meta-analyses were performed in relation to (1) executive function, (2) general cognitive function, (3) attention, working memory and processing speed, (4) verbal memory and learning, and (5) visual−spatial memory and learning. Small-to-moderate effect sizes emerged for all domains. Similarly to previous comparisons between unselected, drug-naïve and first-episode schizophrenia samples v. healthy controls in the literature, the largest effect size was observed in verbal memory and learning [dl = −0.53; 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.29 to −0.76; z = 4.42; p < 0.001]. A sub-analysis of language-related functions, extracted from across the primary domains, yielded a comparable effect size (dl = −0.53, 95% CI −0.82 to −0.23; z = 3.45; p < 0.001). Manipulating our sampling strategy to include or exclude samples selected for clozapine response did not affect the pattern of findings. Our findings are discussed in relation to possible aetiological contributions to TRS.
Increasing evidence suggests that circulating factors and immune dysfunction may contribute to the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. In particular, proinflammatory cytokines, complement and autoantibodies against CNS epitopes have recently been associated with psychosis. Related concepts in previous decades led to several clinical trials of dialysis and plasmapheresis as treatments for schizophrenia. These trials may have relevance for the current understanding of schizophrenia. We aimed to identify whether dialysis or plasmapheresis are beneficial interventions in schizophrenia. We conducted a systematic search in major electronic databases for high-quality studies (double-blinded randomised trials with sham controls) applying either haemodialysis or plasmapheresis as an intervention in patients with schizophrenia, published in English from the start of records until September 2018. We found nine studies meeting inclusion criteria, reporting on 105 patients in total who received either sham or active intervention. One out of eight studies reported a beneficial effect of haemodialysis on schizophrenia, one a detrimental effect and six no effect. The sole trial of plasmapheresis found it to be ineffective. Adverse events were reported in 23% of patients. Studies were at unclear or high risk of bias. It is unlikely that haemodialysis is a beneficial treatment in schizophrenia, although the studies were of small size and could not consider potential subgroups. Plasmapheresis was only addressed by one study and warrants further exploration as a treatment modality in schizophrenia.
Structural brain abnormalities have been described in autism but studies are often small and contradictory. We aimed to identify which brain regions can reliably be regarded as different in autism compared to healthy controls.
A systematic search was conducted for magnetic resonance imaging studies of regional brain size in autism. Data were extracted and combined using random effects meta-analysis. The modifying effects of age and IQ were investigated using meta-regression.
The total brain, cerebral hemispheres, cerebellum and caudate nucleus were increased in volume, whereas the corpus callosum area was reduced. There was evidence for a modifying effect of age and IQ on the cerebellar vermal lobules VI–VII and for age on the amygdala.
Autism may result from abnormalities in specific brain regions and a global lack of integration due to brain enlargement. Inconsistencies in the literature partly relate to differences in the age and IQ of study populations. Some regions may show abnormal growth trajectories.
Substantial clinical heterogeneity of major depressive disorder (MDD) suggests it may group together individuals with diverse aetiologies. Identifying distinct subtypes should lead to more effective diagnosis and treatment, while providing more useful targets for further research. Genetic and clinical overlap between MDD and schizophrenia (SCZ) suggests an MDD subtype may share underlying mechanisms with SCZ.
The present study investigated whether a neurobiologically distinct subtype of MDD could be identified by SCZ polygenic risk score (PRS). We explored interactive effects between SCZ PRS and MDD case/control status on a range of cortical, subcortical and white matter metrics among 2370 male and 2574 female UK Biobank participants.
There was a significant SCZ PRS by MDD interaction for rostral anterior cingulate cortex (RACC) thickness (β = 0.191, q = 0.043). This was driven by a positive association between SCZ PRS and RACC thickness among MDD cases (β = 0.098, p = 0.026), compared to a negative association among controls (β = −0.087, p = 0.002). MDD cases with low SCZ PRS showed thinner RACC, although the opposite difference for high-SCZ-PRS cases was not significant. There were nominal interactions for other brain metrics, but none remained significant after correcting for multiple comparisons.
Our significant results indicate that MDD case-control differences in RACC thickness vary as a function of SCZ PRS. Although this was not the case for most other brain measures assessed, our specific findings still provide some further evidence that MDD in the presence of high genetic risk for SCZ is subtly neurobiologically distinct from MDD in general.
We present an account of why we decided to retract a paper. We discovered a lack of adherence to conventional trials registration, execution, interpretation and reporting, and consequently, with the authors, needed to correct the scientific record. We set out our responses in general to strengthen research integrity.
Declaration of interest
K.S.B. is Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Psychiatry. W.L., K.R.K. and S.M.L. are members of the senior editorial committee and the research integrity committee for the journal. In the past three years, S.M.L. has received research support from Janssen and Lundbeck, and personal support from Janssen, Otsuka and Sunovion.
Young people's mental health and well-being is an important concern in the UK. Provision of education and support to schools has been highlighted as an area for improvement; however, evidence-based programmes are scarce and costly.
To provide an acceptable education programme to improve pupils' confidence and knowledge of mental health and well-being. It covered the mental and emotional well-being outcomes set by the Scottish Government in their schools' curriculum.
Lessons were designed by A.P. and delivered by volunteer doctors and medical students, and supervised by a psychiatrist. Outcomes were measured using questionnaires before and after lessons with optional comments.
PsychEd was piloted in 2016 in six schools to pupils between the ages of 11 and 18. There was a statistically significant improvement in pupil confidence and knowledge after the lessons (P < 0.001). Of the pupils 84% felt that having lessons on mental health was useful. Qualitative feedback was also collected and coded into positive, constructive and negative comments. In total, 72% of pupil comments were positive.
PsychEd showed promising results. Future areas of development include reaching a greater number of local authority schools, longer training for volunteers and provision of teaching materials to teachers for their own use.
The current study examined the pattern of neurocognitive impairments in a community-recruited sample of clinical high-risk (CHR) participants and established relationships with psychosocial functioning.
CHR-participants (n = 108), participants who did not fulfil CHR-criteria (CHR-negatives) (n = 42) as well as a group of healthy controls (HCs) (n = 55) were recruited. CHR-status was assessed using the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental States (CAARMS) and the Schizophrenia Proneness Instrument, Adult Version (SPI-A). The Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia Battery (BACS) as well as tests for emotion recognition, working memory and attention were administered. In addition, role and social functioning as well as premorbid adjustment were assessed.
CHR-participants were significantly impaired on the Symbol-Coding and Token-Motor task and showed a reduction in total BACS-scores. Moreover, CHR-participants were characterised by prolonged response times (RTs) in emotion recognition as well as by reductions in both social and role functioning, GAF and premorbid adjustments compared with HCs. Neurocognitive impairments in emotion recognition accuracy, emotion recognition RT, processing speed and motor speed were associated with several aspects of functioning explaining between 4% and 12% of the variance.
The current data obtained from a community sample of CHR-participants highlight the importance of dysfunctions in motor and processing speed and emotion recognition RT. Moreover, these deficits were found to be related to global, social and role functioning, suggesting that neurocognitive impairments are an important aspect of sub-threshold psychotic experiences and a possible target for therapeutic interventions.
An increasing body of genetic and imaging research shows that it is becoming possible to forecast the onset of major psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia before people become ill with ever improving accuracy. Practical issues such as the optimal combination of clinical and biological variables are being addressed, but the application of predictive algorithms to individuals or in routine clinical settings have yet to be tested. The development of predictive methods in mental health comes with substantial ethical questions, including whether people wish to know their level of risk, as well as individual and societal attitudes to the potential adverse effects of data sharing, early diagnosis and treatment, which so far have been largely ignored. Preliminary data suggests that at least some people think predictive research is valuable and would take part in such studies, and some would welcome knowing the results. Future initiatives should systematically assess opinions and attitudes in conjunction with scientific and technical advances.
Declaration of interest
In the past 3 years, S.M.L. has received personal fees from Otsuaka, Sunovion and Janssen, and research grant support from Janssen and Lundbeck. A.M.M. has received research support from the Sackler Trust, Eli Lilly and Janssen. S.M.L. is part of the PSYSCAN consortium.
Psychotic symptoms and psychotic disorders occur at increased rates in adults with intellectual disability, including borderline intellectual functioning, compared with the general population. Little is known about the development of such symptoms in this population.
To examine whether clinical factors predictive of psychotic disorder in a familial study of schizophrenia also apply to those with intellectual disability.
Adolescents with special educational needs (SEN) were assessed with the Structured Interview for Schizotypy (SIS) and Childhood Behavioural Checklist (CBCL). These scores were used to prospectively divide participants based on their anticipated risk for psychotic disorder. A subsample were reassessed three times over 6 years, using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS).
The SEN group were more symptomatic than controls throughout (Cohen's d range for PANSS subscale scores: 0.54–1.4, all P < 0.007). Over 6 years of follow-up, those above the SIS and CBCL cut-off values at baseline were more likely than those below to display morbid positive psychotic symptoms (odds ratio, 3.5; 95% CI 1.3–9.0) and develop psychotic disorder (odds ratio, 11.4; 95% CI 2.6–50.1). Baseline SIS and CBCL cut-off values predicted psychotic disorder with sensitivity of 0.67, specificity of 0.85, positive predictive value of 0.26 and negative predictive value of 0.97.
Adolescents with SEN have increased psychotic and non-psychotic symptoms. The personality and behavioural features associated with later psychotic disorder in this group are similar to those in people with familial loading. Relatively simple screening measures may help identify those in this vulnerable group who do and do not require monitoring for psychotic symptoms.
Single patient or ‘n-of-1’ trials are a pragmatic method to achieve optimal, evidence-based treatments for individual patients. Such trials could be particularly valuable in chronic, heterogeneous, difficult to treat illnesses such as schizophrenia.
To identify how often, and in what way, n-of-1 trials have been used in schizophrenia.
We performed a systematic search in the major electronic databases for studies adopting n-of-1 methodology in schizophrenia, published in English from the start of records until the end of January 2017.
We identified six studies meeting inclusion criteria. There was wide variability in study methodology and analysis. Each trial reported positive outcomes for their respective intervention, but all studies were at high risk of bias.
In conclusion, n-of-1 trials are currently underutilised in schizophrenia. Existing trials suggest the method is well tolerated and potentially effective in achieving optimal treatments for patients, but more standardised methods of design, execution and analysis are required in future trials.
Declaration of interest
S.M.L. has received grants and personal fees from Janssen, and personal fees from Otsuka and Sunovion, in the past 3 years, outside the submitted work.