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The search for life in the Universe is a fundamental problem of astrobiology and modern science. The current progress in the detection of terrestrial-type exoplanets has opened a new avenue in the characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres and in the search for biosignatures of life with the upcoming ground-based and space missions. To specify the conditions favourable for the origin, development and sustainment of life as we know it in other worlds, we need to understand the nature of global (astrospheric), and local (atmospheric and surface) environments of exoplanets in the habitable zones (HZs) around G-K-M dwarf stars including our young Sun. Global environment is formed by propagated disturbances from the planet-hosting stars in the form of stellar flares, coronal mass ejections, energetic particles and winds collectively known as astrospheric space weather. Its characterization will help in understanding how an exoplanetary ecosystem interacts with its host star, as well as in the specification of the physical, chemical and biochemical conditions that can create favourable and/or detrimental conditions for planetary climate and habitability along with evolution of planetary internal dynamics over geological timescales. A key linkage of (astro)physical, chemical and geological processes can only be understood in the framework of interdisciplinary studies with the incorporation of progress in heliophysics, astrophysics, planetary and Earth sciences. The assessment of the impacts of host stars on the climate and habitability of terrestrial (exo)planets will significantly expand the current definition of the HZ to the biogenic zone and provide new observational strategies for searching for signatures of life. The major goal of this paper is to describe and discuss the current status and recent progress in this interdisciplinary field in light of presentations and discussions during the NASA Nexus for Exoplanetary System Science funded workshop ‘Exoplanetary Space Weather, Climate and Habitability’ and to provide a new roadmap for the future development of the emerging field of exoplanetary science and astrobiology.
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.
Improving neurocognitive outcomes following treatment for brain metastases have become increasingly important. We propose that a brief telephone-based neurocognitive assessment may improve follow-up cognitive assessments in this palliative population. Aim: To prospectively assess the feasibility and reliability of a telephone based brief neurocognitive assessment compared to the same tests delivered face-to-face. Methods: Brain metastases patients to be treated with whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT) were assessed using a brief validated neurocognitive battery at baseline, at 1 month and 3 months following WBRT (in person and over the phone). The primary outcome was feasibility and inter-procedural (in person versus telephone) reliability. The secondary objective was to evaluate the change in neurocognitive function before and after WBRT. Results: Out of 39 patients enrolled, 82% of patients completed the baseline in-person and telephone neurocognitive assessments. However, at 1 month, only 41% of enrolled patients completed the in-person and telephone cognitive assessments and at 3 months, only 10% of patients completed them. Results pertaining to reliability and change in neurocognitive function will be updated. Conclusion: The pre-defined definition of feasibility (at least 80% completion for face to face and telephone neurocognitive assessments) was met at baseline. However, a large proportion of participants did not complete either telephone or in person neurocognitive follow-up at 1 month and at 3 months post-WBRT. Attrition remained a challenge for neurocognitive testing in this population even when a telephone-based brief assessment was used.
The Murchison Widefield Array is a Square Kilometre Array Precursor. The telescope is located at the Murchison Radio–astronomy Observatory in Western Australia. The MWA consists of 4 096 dipoles arranged into 128 dual polarisation aperture arrays forming a connected element interferometer that cross-correlates signals from all 256 inputs. A hybrid approach to the correlation task is employed, with some processing stages being performed by bespoke hardware, based on Field Programmable Gate Arrays, and others by Graphics Processing Units housed in general purpose rack mounted servers. The correlation capability required is approximately 8 tera floating point operations per second. The MWA has commenced operations and the correlator is generating 8.3 TB day−1 of correlation products, that are subsequently transferred 700 km from the MRO to Perth (WA) in real-time for storage and offline processing. In this paper, we outline the correlator design, signal path, and processing elements and present the data format for the internal and external interfaces.
Loss of cortical volume in frontotemporal regions occurs in patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP) and longitudinal studies have reported progressive brain volume changes at different stages of the disease, even if cognitive deficits remain stable over time. We investigated cortical changes in patients over the 2 years following their FEP and their associations with clinical and cognitive measures.
Twenty-seven patients after their FEP (20 with schizophrenia, seven with schizo-affective disorder) and 25 healthy controls matched for age and gender participated in this study. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed on a 1.5-T scanner both at baseline and after 2 years. Area and thickness of the cortex were measured using surface-based morphometry (SBM). Patients also underwent neuropsychological testing at these two time points.
Progressive cortical thinning in the superior and inferior frontal and, to a lesser extent, superior temporal cortex was observed in patients. Cortical area remained constant. Cortical thinning was associated with duration of treatment at a trend level and was predicted by baseline measures of IQ and working memory. Cortical thinning occurred in the absence of clinical or cognitive deterioration.
The clinical implications of these cortical changes remain uncertain, but patients with less cognitive reserve may be more vulnerable to developing cortical abnormalities when exposed to medication or other disease-related biological factors.
The Millimetre Astronomy Legacy Team 90 GHz (MALT90) survey aims to characterise the physical and chemical evolution of high-mass star-forming clumps. Exploiting the unique broad frequency range and on-the-fly mapping capabilities of the Australia Telescope National Facility Mopra 22 m single-dish telescope1, MALT90 has obtained 3′ × 3′ maps towards ~2 000 dense molecular clumps identified in the ATLASGAL 870 μm Galactic plane survey. The clumps were selected to host the early stages of high-mass star formation and to span the complete range in their evolutionary states (from prestellar, to protostellar, and on to
regions and photodissociation regions). Because MALT90 mapped 16 lines simultaneously with excellent spatial (38 arcsec) and spectral (0.11 km s−1) resolution, the data reveal a wealth of information about the clumps’ morphologies, chemistry, and kinematics. In this paper we outline the survey strategy, observing mode, data reduction procedure, and highlight some early science results. All MALT90 raw and processed data products are available to the community. With its unprecedented large sample of clumps, MALT90 is the largest survey of its type ever conducted and an excellent resource for identifying interesting candidates for high-resolution studies with ALMA.
The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is one of three Square Kilometre Array Precursor telescopes and is located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in the Murchison Shire of the mid-west of Western Australia, a location chosen for its extremely low levels of radio frequency interference. The MWA operates at low radio frequencies, 80–300 MHz, with a processed bandwidth of 30.72 MHz for both linear polarisations, and consists of 128 aperture arrays (known as tiles) distributed over a ~3-km diameter area. Novel hybrid hardware/software correlation and a real-time imaging and calibration systems comprise the MWA signal processing backend. In this paper, the as-built MWA is described both at a system and sub-system level, the expected performance of the array is presented, and the science goals of the instrument are summarised.
People with psychosis demonstrate impaired response inhibition on the Stop Signal Task (SST). It is less clear if this impairment extends to reflection impulsivity, a form of impulsivity that has been linked to substance use in non-psychotic samples.
We compared 49 patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP) and 30 healthy control participants on two forms of impulsivity measured using the Information Sampling Test (IST) and the SST, along with clinical and IQ assessments. We also compared those patients who used cannabis with those who had either given up or never used.
Patients with FEP had significantly greater impairment in response inhibition but not in reflection impulsivity compared with healthy controls. By contrast, patients who reported current cannabis use demonstrated greater reflection impulsivity than those that had either given up or never used, whereas there were no differences in response inhibition.
These data suggest that abnormal reflection impulsivity is associated with substance use in psychosis but not psychosis itself; the opposite relationship may hold for response inhibition.
Psychotic disorders are highly heritable such that the unaffected relatives of patients may manifest characteristics, or endophenotypes, that are more closely related to risk genes than the overt clinical condition. Facial affect processing is dependent on a distributed cortico-limbic network that is disrupted in psychosis. This study assessed facial affect processing and related brain structure as a candidate endophenotype of first-episode psychosis (FEP).
Three samples comprising 30 FEP patients, 30 of their first-degree relatives and 31 unrelated healthy controls underwent assessment of facial affect processing and structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) data. Multivariate analysis (partial least squares, PLS) was used to identify a grey matter (GM) system in which anatomical variation was associated with variation in facial affect processing speed.
The groups did not differ in their accuracy of facial affect intensity rating but differed significantly in speed of response, with controls responding faster than relatives, who responded faster than patients. Within the control group, variation in speed of affect processing was significantly associated with variation of GM density in amygdala, lateral temporal cortex, frontal cortex and cerebellum. However, this association between cortico-limbic GM density and speed of facial affect processing was absent in patients and their relatives.
Speed of facial affect processing presents as a candidate endophenotype of FEP. The normal association between speed of facial affect processing and cortico-limbic GM variation was disrupted in FEP patients and their relatives.
Previous studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia are impaired on executive tasks, where positive and negative feedbacks are used to update task rules or switch attention. However, research to date using saccadic tasks has not revealed clear deficits in task switching in these patients. The present study used an oculomotor ‘rule switching’ task to investigate the use of negative feedback when switching between task rules in people with schizophrenia.
A total of 50 patients with first episode schizophrenia and 25 healthy controls performed a task in which the association between a centrally presented visual cue and the direction of a saccade could change from trial to trial. Rule changes were heralded by an unexpected negative feedback, indicating that the cue-response mapping had reversed.
Schizophrenia patients were found to make increased errors following a rule switch, but these were almost entirely the result of executing saccades away from the location at which the negative feedback had been presented on the preceding trial. This impairment in negative feedback processing was independent of IQ.
The results not only confirm the existence of a basic deficit in stimulus–response rule switching in schizophrenia, but also suggest that this arises from aberrant processing of response outcomes, resulting in a failure to appropriately update rules. The findings are discussed in the context of neurological and pharmacological abnormalities in the conditions that may disrupt prediction error signalling in schizophrenia.
Verbal memory is frequently and severely affected in schizophrenia and has been implicated as a mediator of poor clinical outcome. Whereas encoding deficits are well demonstrated, it is unclear whether retention is impaired. This distinction is important because accelerated forgetting implies impaired consolidation attributable to medial temporal lobe (MTL) dysfunction whereas impaired encoding and retrieval implicates involvement of prefrontal cortex.
We assessed a group of healthy volunteers (n=97) and pre-morbid IQ- and sex-matched first-episode psychosis patients (n=97), the majority of whom developed schizophrenia. We compared performance of verbal learning and recall with measures of visuospatial working memory, planning and attentional set-shifting, and also current IQ.
All measures of performance, including verbal memory retention, a memory savings score that accounted for learning impairments, were significantly impaired in the schizophrenia group. The difference between groups for delayed recall remained even after the influence of learning and recall was accounted for. Factor analyses showed that, in patients, all variables except verbal memory retention loaded on a single factor, whereas in controls verbal memory and fronto-executive measures were separable.
The results suggest that IQ, executive function and verbal learning deficits in schizophrenia may reflect a common abnormality of information processing in prefrontal cortex rather than specific impairments in different cognitive domains. Verbal memory retention impairments, however, may have a different aetiology.
Impairments in inhibitory function have been found in studies of cognition in schizophrenia. These have been linked to a failure to adequately maintain the task demands in working memory. As response inhibition is known to occur in both voluntary and involuntary processes, an important question is whether both aspects of response inhibition are specifically impaired in people with schizophrenia.
The subjects were 33 patients presenting with a first episode of psychosis (27 with schizophrenia and six with schizo-affective disorder) and 24 healthy controls. We administered two motor response tasks: voluntary response inhibition was indexed by the stop-signal task and involuntary response inhibition by the masked priming task. We also administered neuropsychological measures of IQ and executive function to explore their associations with response inhibition.
Patients with schizophrenia compared to healthy controls showed significantly increased duration of the voluntary response inhibition process, as indexed by the stop-signal reaction time (SSRT). By contrast, there were no group differences on the pattern of priming on the masked priming task, indicative of intact involuntary response inhibition. Neuropsychological measures revealed that voluntary response inhibition is not necessarily dependent on working memory.
These data provide evidence for a specific impairment of voluntary response inhibition in schizophrenia.
It has been suggested that some psychotic symptoms reflect ‘aberrant salience’, related to dysfunctional reward learning. To test this hypothesis we investigated whether patients with schizophrenia showed impaired learning of task-relevant stimulus–reinforcement associations in the presence of distracting task-irrelevant cues.
We tested 20 medicated patients with schizophrenia and 17 controls on a reaction time game, the Salience Attribution Test. In this game, participants made a speeded response to earn money in the presence of conditioned stimuli (CSs). Each CS comprised two visual dimensions, colour and form. Probability of reinforcement varied over one of these dimensions (task-relevant), but not the other (task-irrelevant). Measures of adaptive and aberrant motivational salience were calculated on the basis of latency and subjective reinforcement probability rating differences over the task-relevant and task-irrelevant dimensions respectively.
Participants rated reinforcement significantly more likely and responded significantly faster on high-probability-reinforced relative to low-probability-reinforced trials, representing adaptive motivational salience. Patients exhibited reduced adaptive salience relative to controls, but the two groups did not differ in terms of aberrant salience. Patients with delusions exhibited significantly greater aberrant salience than those without delusions, and aberrant salience also correlated with negative symptoms. In the controls, aberrant salience correlated significantly with ‘introvertive anhedonia’ schizotypy.
These data support the hypothesis that aberrant salience is related to the presence of delusions in medicated patients with schizophrenia, but are also suggestive of a link with negative symptoms. The relationship between aberrant salience and psychotic symptoms warrants further investigation in unmedicated patients.