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Alterations in heart rate (HR) may provide new information about physiological signatures of depression severity. This 2-year study in individuals with a history of recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD) explored the intra-individual variations in HR parameters and their relationship with depression severity.
Data from 510 participants (Number of observations of the HR parameters = 6666) were collected from three centres in the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK, as a part of the remote assessment of disease and relapse-MDD study. We analysed the relationship between depression severity, assessed every 2 weeks with the Patient Health Questionnaire-8, with HR parameters in the week before the assessment, such as HR features during all day, resting periods during the day and at night, and activity periods during the day evaluated with a wrist-worn Fitbit device. Linear mixed models were used with random intercepts for participants and countries. Covariates included in the models were age, sex, BMI, smoking and alcohol consumption, antidepressant use and co-morbidities with other medical health conditions.
Decreases in HR variation during resting periods during the day were related with an increased severity of depression both in univariate and multivariate analyses. Mean HR during resting at night was higher in participants with more severe depressive symptoms.
Our findings demonstrate that alterations in resting HR during all day and night are associated with depression severity. These findings may provide an early warning of worsening depression symptoms which could allow clinicians to take responsive treatment measures promptly.
Cognitive symptoms are common during and following episodes of depression. Little is known about the persistence of self-reported and performance-based cognition with depression and functional outcomes.
This is a secondary analysis of a prospective naturalistic observational clinical cohort study of individuals with recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD; N = 623). Participants completed app-based self-reported and performance-based cognitive function assessments alongside validated measures of depression, functional disability, and self-esteem every 3 months. Participants were followed-up for a maximum of 2-years. Multilevel hierarchically nested modelling was employed to explore between- and within-participant variation over time to identify whether persistent cognitive difficulties are related to levels of depression and functional impairment during follow-up.
508 individuals (81.5%) provided data (mean age: 46.6, s.d.: 15.6; 76.2% female). Increasing persistence of self-reported cognitive difficulty was associated with higher levels of depression and functional impairment throughout the follow-up. In comparison to low persistence of objective cognitive difficulty (<25% of timepoints), those with high persistence (>75% of timepoints) reported significantly higher levels of depression (B = 5.17, s.e. = 2.21, p = 0.019) and functional impairment (B = 4.82, s.e. = 1.79, p = 0.002) over time. Examination of the individual cognitive modules shows that persistently impaired executive function is associated with worse functioning, and poor processing speed is particularly important for worsened depressive symptoms.
We replicated previous findings of greater persistence of cognitive difficulty with increasing severity of depression and further demonstrate that these cognitive difficulties are associated with pervasive functional disability. Difficulties with cognition may be an indicator and target for further treatment input.
Cognitive impairment is conceptualised in different ways and the discussion will highlight differences and similarities. The importance of these cognitive impairments for choosing specific or generic cognitive remediation therapies will be highlighted as well as the need to consider social cognition and metacognition as potentially more important ingredients for improving recovery.
Cognitive remediation (CR) therapy for psychosis significantly improves recovery but is yet to be widely implemented in UK National Health Service and it is likely to be of greatest value if implemented early. Organisational climate within teams in the health services is one factor likely to affect CR implementation into Early Intervention Services (EIS), that serve those with a first episode.
To understand the organisational climate within UK NHS EIS and the barriers and facilitators for the introduction of CR.
We conducted semi structured interviews with 42 EIS members of four teams in four NHS Mental Heath Trusts.
There were differences between teams, including involvement in decision making, leadership style, and willingness to adopt CR. Resource shortages were considered the main implementation barrier across all teams. The evidence for CR benefits and the recognition of a clinical need was the main facilitator. Teams with more democratic leadership, involving all team members in decision making, and knowledge of both the evidence base and need for CR, may feel better able to successfully incorporate it into their service.
Engaging team members in the implementation process through cooperative and consultative decision-making can stimulate a flattened hierarchical structure, empowering staff to overcome existing and new NHS pressures and effectively deliver evidence-based care. The consideration of local conditions and organisational micro-climates mediate the successful implementation of new interventions and is needed in addition to generic, context-free variables such as resources before new interventions can be introduced.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is prevalent, often chronic, and requires ongoing monitoring of symptoms to track response to treatment and identify early indicators of relapse. Remote Measurement Technologies (RMT) provide an exciting opportunity to transform the measurement and management of MDD, via data collected from inbuilt smartphone sensors and wearable devices alongside app-based questionnaires and tasks.
To describe the amount of data collected during a multimodal longitudinal RMT study, in an MDD population.
RADAR-MDD is a multi-centre, prospective observational cohort study. People with a history of MDD were provided with a wrist-worn wearable, and several apps designed to: a) collect data from smartphone sensors; and b) deliver questionnaires, speech tasks and cognitive assessments and followed-up for a maximum of 2 years.
A total of 623 individuals with a history of MDD were enrolled in the study with 80% completion rates for primary outcome assessments across all timepoints. 79.8% of people participated for the maximum amount of time available and 20.2% withdrew prematurely. Data availability across all RMT data types varied depending on the source of data and the participant-burden for each data type. We found no evidence of an association between the severity of depression symptoms at baseline and the availability of data. 110 participants had > 50% data available across all data types, and thus able to contribute to multiparametric analyses.
RADAR-MDD is the largest multimodal RMT study in the field of mental health. Here, we have shown that collecting RMT data from a clinical population is feasible.
Most cognitive remediation therapies now involve computer presentation that differ in their level of sophistication and incorporation of gaming technology. But sophistication doesn’t seem to affect the benefits as few outcome differences have been noted. Rather there seems to be a need for some interaction between a therapist and client with two recent meta-analyses reporting this therapist effect. For the large-scale roll-out of cognitive remediation this poses a problem – how do we train these therapists? We know that training or at least educational background is important, so we need clear training packages and supervision. Covid-19 has also given us a greater challenge as it has limited our face-to-face interactions. To remove these two challenges we can use technology. For training we need online processes to increase training availability and for a lack of face to face contact we can provide the bridge with suitable platforms which allow the sharing of screens. Both would ensure that cognitive remediation is available to a wider group, although that requires overcoming the digital divide often experienced by people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The tools and the training programme issues are discussed with reference to some initial data.
Cognitive difficulties are prevalent in people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and are associated with poor long term functioning. They interfere with recovery so that people with more severe deficits have difficulty taking advantage of rehabilitation techniques.
Three approaches to improving outcomes are possible: (i) target cognition, (ii) adapt rehabilitation programmes, (iii) adapt the environment. A number of psychological therapies have been developed that target cognition. This symposium will discuss and evaluate the similarities and differences between such therapies.
A review of randomised controlled trials and a new meta-analysis.
The form of therapy targeting cognition might be in groups, individual or computer presentation. They may be based on a clear theory about the deficits in schizophrenia or they may have borrowed from work on brain injury. They can last for a few sessions to two years and use different types of teaching, such as practice or strategic problem solving. Despite all these differences 40 randomised controlled trials have shown that they can produce modest improvements in cognition and a new meta-analysis has shown that there is some homogeneity of effects across different therapies but that methodology does make a difference.
Improvement in functioning is best achieved by combining therapies and by the remediation approach being to teach strategies rather than only practicing skills. Metacognition which is the awareness of thinking skills and when certain strategies should be implemented seems to be the key issue in transferring skills from the cognitive domain to general functioning.
Cognitive impairment in schizophrenia is a strong predictor of the functional outcome and no effective treatments are available. MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB) is approved by the FDA as outcome measure for trials of cognitive-enhancing drugs in schizophrenia. CogState Schizophrenia Battery (CSB) provides a briefer cognition assessment with minimal practice effects and a strong correlation between the CSB and MCCB composite scores. We tested the sensitivity of CSB as a cognitive outcome measure in a clinical trial in schizophrenia, where a cognitive-enhancing drug and cognitive training were combined.
49 participants with schizophrenia were enrolled in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Participants were randomised to modafinil (200mg/day) or placebo and underwent a cognitive training program for 10 weekdays. CSB was administered twice at baseline to minimise practice effects, at the last day of the intervention and two weeks after the completion of the intervention.
There was a significant time effect at the end of the intervention on the CSB composite score (p=0.042). There was no significant treatment effect on CSB composite score at the end of the intervention (p=0.686) or at follow up (p=0.120).
Multiple administrations of CSB were well tolerated by participants. The significant time effects on the composite score may suggest the operation of practice effects. Several factors could have contributed to the lack of treatment effects on CSB, such as the burden of multiple neuropsychological testing in a relatively brief study, the duration of modafinil treatment and also the intensive nature of cognitive training.
Psychological treatments aimed at symptoms or behaviours that impede recovery now have a relatively strong database but it is not clear which treatments are more effective and when they should be applied. For large-scale roll out we need to consider which are the most helpful and cost-effective at which stage of the illness and to which individuals. This requires knowledge of how service users ascribe value to different outcomes and treatments as well as which individuals are likely to benefit the most from different treatments to produce a coherent mental health recovery programme. Tailoring treatment requires an understanding of adherence requirements as well as therapeutic interactions to explain how therapy fits with the service users’ personal goals. Not all information for making these clinical decisions is embedded in any database so the burden on research is to provide enough information to signal to health professionals the best course of action. More research on dissemination of treatment approaches as well as training and supervision requirements is needed in the form of dissemination science if patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are to receive the best intervention programme.
Disclosure of interest
The author has not supplied his declaration of competing interest.
Cognitive remediation (CR) training has emerged as a promising approach to improving cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and related psychosis. The limited availability of psychological services for psychosis is a major barrier to accessing this intervention however. This study investigated the effectiveness of a low support, remotely accessible, computerised working memory (WM) training programme in patients with psychosis.
Ninety patients were enrolled into a single blind randomised controlled trial of CR. Effectiveness of the intervention was assessed in terms of neuropsychological performance, social and occupational function, and functional MRI 2 weeks post-intervention, with neuropsychological and social function again assessed 3–6 months post-treatment.
Patients who completed the intervention showed significant gains in both neuropsychological function (measured using both untrained WM and episodic task performance, and a measure of performance IQ), and social function at both 2-week follow-up and 3–6-month follow-up timepoints. Furthermore, patients who completed MRI scanning showed improved resting state functional connectivity relative to patients in the placebo condition.
CR training has already been shown to improve cognitive and social function in patient with psychosis. This study demonstrates that, at least for some chronic but stable outpatients, a low support treatment was associated with gains that were comparable with those reported for CR delivered entirely on a 1:1 basis. We conclude that CR has potential to be delivered even in services in which psychological supports for patients with psychosis are limited.
Cognitive remediation (CR) is a psychological therapy, which improves cognitive and social functioning in people with schizophrenia. It is now being implemented within routine clinical services and mechanisms of change are being explored. We designed a new generation computerised CR programme, CIRCuiTS (Computerised Interactive Remediation of Cognition – a Training for Schizophrenia), to enhance strategic and metacognitive processing, with an integrated focus on the transfer of cognitive skills to daily living. This large trial tested its feasibility to be delivered in therapist-led and independent sessions, and its efficacy for improved cognitive and social functioning.
A two arm single blind randomised superiority trial comparing CIRCuiTS plus treatment-as-usual (TAU) with TAU alone in 93 people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Cognitive, social functioning and symptom outcomes were assessed at pre- and post-therapy and 3 months later.
85% adhered to CIRCuiTS, completing a median of 28 sessions. There were significant improvements in visual memory at post-treatment (p = 0.009) and follow-up (p = 0.001), and a trend for improvements in executive function at post-treatment (p = 0.056) in favour of the CIRCuiTS group. Community function was also differentially and significantly improved in the CIRCuiTS group at post-treatment (p = 0.003) but not follow-up, and was specifically predicted by improved executive functions.
CIRCuiTS was beneficial for improving memory and social functioning. Improved executive functioning emerges as a consistent predictor of functional gains and should be considered an important CR target to achieve functional change. A larger-scale effectiveness trial of CIRCuiTS is now indicated.
Recent theories suggest that poor working memory (WM) may be the cognitive underpinning of negative symptoms in people with schizophrenia. In this study, we first explore the effect of cognitive remediation (CR) on two clusters of negative symptoms (i.e. expressive and social amotivation), and then assess the relevance of WM gains as a possible mediator of symptom improvement.
Data were accessed for 309 people with schizophrenia from the NIMH Database of Cognitive Training and Remediation Studies and a separate study. Approximately half the participants received CR and the rest were allocated to a control condition. All participants were assessed before and after therapy and at follow-up. Expressive negative symptoms and social amotivation symptoms scores were calculated from the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale. WM was assessed with digit span and letter-number span tests.
Participants who received CR had a significant improvement in WM scores (d = 0.27) compared with those in the control condition. Improvements in social amotivation levels approached statistical significance (d = −0.19), but change in expressive negative symptoms did not differ between groups. WM change did not mediate the effect of CR on social amotivation.
The results suggest that a course of CR may benefit behavioural negative symptoms. Despite hypotheses linking memory problems with negative symptoms, the current findings do not support the role of this cognitive domain as a significant mediator. The results indicate that WM improves independently from negative symptoms reduction.
Poorer patient views of mental health inpatient treatment predict both further admissions and, for those admitted involuntarily, longer admissions. As advocated in the UK Francis report, we investigated the hypothesis that improving staff training improves patients’ views of ward care.
Cluster randomised trial with stepped wedge design in 16 acute mental health wards randomised (using the ralloc procedure in Stata) by an independent statistician in three waves to staff training. A psychologist trained ward staff on evidence-based group interventions and then supported their introduction to each ward. The main outcome was blind self-report of perceptions of care (VOICE) before or up to 2 years after staff training between November 2008 and January 2013.
In total, 1108 inpatients took part (616 admitted involuntarily under the English Mental Health Act). On average 51.6 staff training sessions were provided per ward. Involuntary patient's perceptions of, and satisfaction with, mental health wards improved after staff training (N582, standardised effect −0·35, 95% CI −0·57 to −0·12, p = 0·002; interaction p value 0·006) but no benefit to those admitted voluntarily (N469, −0.01, 95% CI −0.23 to 0.22, p = 0.955) and no strong evidence of an overall effect (N1058, standardised effect −0.18 s.d., 95% CI −0.38 to 0.01, p = 0.062). The training costs around £10 per patient per week. Resource allocation changed towards patient perceived meaningful contacts by an average of £12 (95% CI −£76 to £98, p = 0.774).
Staff training improved the perceptions of the therapeutic environment in those least likely to want an inpatient admission, those formally detained. This change might enhance future engagement with all mental health services and prevent the more costly admissions.
Cognitive deficits in schizophrenia have major functional impacts. Modafinil is a cognitive enhancer whose effect in healthy volunteers is well-described, but whose effects on the cognitive deficits of schizophrenia appear to be inconsistent. Two possible reasons for this are that cognitive test batteries vary in their sensitivity, or that the phase of illness may be important, with patients early in their illness responding better.
A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled single-dose crossover study of modafinil 200 mg examined this with two cognitive batteries [MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB) and Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB)] in 46 participants with under 3 years’ duration of DSM-IV schizophrenia, on stable antipsychotic medication. In parallel, the same design was used in 28 age-, sex-, and education-matched healthy volunteers. Uncorrected p values were calculated using mixed effects models.
In patients, modafinil significantly improved CANTAB Paired Associate Learning, non-significantly improved efficiency and significantly slowed performance of the CANTAB Stockings of Cambridge spatial planning task. There was no significant effect on any MCCB domain. In healthy volunteers, modafinil significantly increased CANTAB Rapid Visual Processing, Intra-Extra Dimensional Set Shifting and verbal recall accuracy, and MCCB social cognition performance. The only significant differences between groups were in MCCB visual learning.
As in earlier chronic schizophrenia studies, modafinil failed to produce changes in cognition in early psychosis as measured by MCCB. CANTAB proved more sensitive to the effects of modafinil in participants with early schizophrenia and in healthy volunteers. This confirms the importance of selecting the appropriate test battery in treatment studies of cognition in schizophrenia.
Capturing service users’ perspectives can highlight additional and different concerns to those of clinicians, but there are no up to date, self-report psychometrically sound measures of side effects of antipsychotic medications.
To develop a psychometrically sound measure to identify antipsychotic side effects important to service users, the Maudsley Side Effects (MSE) measure.
An initial item bank was subjected to a Delphi exercise (n = 9) with psychiatrists and pharmacists, followed by service user focus groups and expert panels (n = 15) to determine item relevance and language. Feasibility and comprehensive psychometric properties were established in two samples (N43 and N50). We investigated whether we could predict the three most important side effects for individuals from their frequency, severity and life impact.
MSE is a 53-item measure with good reliability and validity. Poorer mental and physical health, but not psychotic symptoms, was related to side-effect burden. Seventy-nine percent of items were chosen as one of the three most important effects. Severity, impact and distress only predicted ‘putting on weight’ which was more distressing, more severe and had more life impact in those for whom it was most important.
MSE is a self-report questionnaire that identifies reliably the side-effect burden as experienced by patients. Identifying key side effects important to patients can act as a starting point for joint decision making on the type and the dose of medication.
There is limited evidence for effective interventions in the treatment of post-traumatic stress symptoms within individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. Clinicians have concerns about using exposure treatments with this patient group. The current trial was designed to evaluate a 16-session cognitive restructuring programme, without direct exposure, for the treatment of post-traumatic stress symptoms specifically within individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia.
A multicentre randomized controlled single-blinded trial with assessments at 0 months, 6 months (post-treatment) and 12 months (follow-up) was conducted. A total of 61 participants diagnosed with schizophrenia and exhibiting post-traumatic stress symptoms were recruited. Those randomized to treatment were offered up to 16 sessions of cognitive–behaviour therapy (CBT, including psychoeducation, breathing training and cognitive restructuring) over a 6-month period, with the control group offered routine clinical services. The main outcome was blind rating of post-traumatic stress symptoms using the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for Schizophrenia. Secondary outcomes were psychotic symptoms as measured by the Positive and Negative Symptom Scale and the Psychotic Symptom Rating Scale.
Both the treatment and control groups experienced a significant decrease in post-traumatic stress symptoms over time but there was no effect of the addition of CBT on either the primary or secondary outcomes.
The current trial did not demonstrate any effect in favour of CBT. Cognitive restructuring programmes may require further adaptation to promote emotional processing of traumatic memories within people diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.
Evidence has accumulated that implicates childhood trauma in the aetiology of psychosis, but our understanding of the putative psychological processes and mechanisms through which childhood trauma impacts on individuals and contributes to the development of psychosis remains limited. We aimed to investigate whether stress sensitivity and threat anticipation underlie the association between childhood abuse and psychosis.
We used the Experience Sampling Method to measure stress, threat anticipation, negative affect, and psychotic experiences in 50 first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients, 44 At-Risk Mental State (ARMS) participants, and 52 controls. Childhood abuse was assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire.
Associations of minor socio-environmental stress in daily life with negative affect and psychotic experiences were modified by sexual abuse and group (all pFWE < 0.05). While there was strong evidence that these associations were greater in FEP exposed to high levels of sexual abuse, and some evidence of greater associations in ARMS exposed to high levels of sexual abuse, controls exposed to high levels of sexual abuse were more resilient and reported less intense negative emotional reactions to socio-environmental stress. A similar pattern was evident for threat anticipation.
Elevated sensitivity and lack of resilience to socio-environmental stress and enhanced threat anticipation in daily life may be important psychological processes underlying the association between childhood sexual abuse and psychosis.
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia have a severe impact on functional
outcomes and treatment options are limited. Arts therapies are currently
recommended but more evidence is required.
To assess body psychotherapy as a treatment for negative symptoms
compared with an active control (trial registration: ISRCTN84216587).
Schizophrenia out-patients were randomised into a 20-session body
psychotherapy or Pilates group. The primary outcome was negative symptoms
at end of treatment. Secondary outcomes included psychopathology,
functional, social and treatment satisfaction outcomes at treatment end
and 6-months later.
In total, 275 participants were randomised. The adjusted difference in
negative symptoms was 0.03 (95% CI –1.11 to 1.17), indicating no benefit
from body psychotherapy. Small improvements in expressive deficits and
movement disorder symptoms were detected in favour of body psychotherapy.
No other outcomes were significantly different.
Body psychotherapy does not have a clinically relevant beneficial effect
in the treatment of patients with negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
The Francis report highlights perceptions of care that are affected by
different factors including ward structures.
To assess patient and staff perceptions of psychiatric in-patient wards
Patient and staff perceptions of in-patient psychiatric wards were
assessed over 18 months. We also investigated whether the type of ward or
service structure affected these perceptions. We included triage and
routine care. The goal was to include at least 50% of eligible patients
The most dramatic change was a significant deterioration in all
experiences over the courseof the study. Systems of care or specific
wards did not affect patient experience but staff were more dissatisfied
in the triage system.
This is the first report of deterioration in perceptions of the
therapeutic in-patient environment that has been captured in a rigorous
way. It may reflect contemporaneous experiences across the National
Health Service of budget reductions and increased throughput. The ward
systems we investigated did not improve patient experience and triage may
have been detrimental to staff.
Attempts have been made to improve the efficiency of in-patient acute care. A novel method has been the development of a ‘triage system’ in which patients are assessed on admission to develop plans for discharge or transfer to an in-patient ward.
To compare a triage admission system with a traditional system.
Length of stay and readmission data for all admissions in a 1-year period between the two systems were compared using the participating trust's anonymised records.
Despite reduced length of stay on the actual triage ward, the average length of stay was not reduced and the triage system did not lead to a greater number of readmissions. There was no significant difference in costs between the two systems.
Based on our findings we cannot conclude that the triage system reduced length of stay, but we can conclude that it does not increase the number of readmissions as some have feared.