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1.  Differential Association of Circadian Genes with Mood Disorders: CRY1 and NPAS2 are Associated with Unipolar Major Depression and CLOCK and VIP with Bipolar Disorder 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;35(6):1279-1289.
Disruptions in circadian rhythms have been described in mood disorders (MD), but the involvement of genetic variation in genes pertaining to the molecular circadian machinery in the susceptibility to MD has not been conclusively determined. We examined 209 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) covering 19 circadian genes (ADCYAP1, ARNTL, ARNTL2, BHLHB2, BHLHB3, CLOCK, CRY1, CRY2, CSNK1E, DBP, NPAS2, NR1D1, PER1, PER2, PER3, RORA, TIMELESS, VIP, and VIPR2) in a sample of 534 MD patients (335 with unipolar major mood depression (MDD) and 199 with bipolar disorder (BD)) and 440 community-based screened controls. Nominally, statistically significant associations were found in 15 circadian genes. The gene-wide test, corrected for the number of SNPs analyzed in each gene, identified significant associations in CRY1 (rs2287161), NPAS2 (rs11123857), and VIPR2 (rs885861) genes with the combined MD sample. In the MDD subsample, the same SNPs in CRY1 and NPAS2 of the combined sample remained associated, whereas in the BD subsample CLOCK (rs10462028) and VIP (rs17083008) were specifically associated. The association with an SNP located 3′ near CRY1 gene in MDD remained statistically significant after permutation correction at experiment level (p=0.007). Significant additive effects were found between the SNPs that were statistically significant at the gene-wide level. We also found evidence of associations between two-marker haplotypes in CRY1 and NPAS2 genes and MD. Our data support the contribution of the circadian system to the genetic susceptibility to MD and suggest that different circadian genes may have specific effects on MD polarity.
PMCID: PMC3055337  PMID: 20072116
clock genes; mood disorders; circadian rhythms; association; polymorphism; haplotype; association; Biological Psychiatry, Chronobiology/Sleep; circadian rhythm; Depression; Unipolar/Bipolar; mood disorders; Neurogenetics; polymorphism
2.  Breakdown in the brain network subserving moral judgment in criminal psychopathy 
Neuroimaging research has demonstrated the involvement of a well-defined brain network in the mediation of moral judgment in normal population, and has suggested the inappropriate network use in criminal psychopathy. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to prove that alterations in the brain network subserving moral judgment in criminal psychopaths are not limited to the inadequate network use during moral judgment, but that a primary network breakdown would exist with dysfunctional alterations outside moral dilemma situations. A total of 22 criminal psychopathic men and 22 control subjects were assessed and fMRI maps were generated to identify (i) brain response to moral dilemmas, (ii) task-induced deactivation of the network during a conventional cognitive task and (iii) the strength of functional connectivity within the network during resting-state. The obtained functional brain maps indeed confirmed that the network subserving moral judgment is underactive in psychopathic individuals during moral dilemma situations, but the data also provided evidence of a baseline network alteration outside moral contexts with a functional disconnection between emotional and cognitive elements that jointly construct moral judgment. The finding may have significant social implications if considering psychopathic behavior to be a result of a primary breakdown in basic brain systems.
PMCID: PMC3501707  PMID: 22037688
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); psychopathy; amygdala; frontal lobe; brain networks; functional connectivity
3.  Brain Structural Alterations in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Patients with Autogenous and Reactive Obsessions 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75273.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a clinically heterogeneous condition. Although structural brain alterations have been consistently reported in OCD, their interaction with particular clinical subtypes deserves further examination. Among other approaches, a two-group classification in patients with autogenous and reactive obsessions has been proposed. The purpose of the present study was to assess, by means of a voxel-based morphometry analysis, the putative brain structural correlates of this classification scheme in OCD patients. Ninety-five OCD patients and 95 healthy controls were recruited. Patients were divided into autogenous (n = 30) and reactive (n = 65) sub-groups. A structural magnetic resonance image was acquired for each participant and pre-processed with SPM8 software to obtain a volume-modulated gray matter map. Whole-brain and voxel-wise comparisons between the study groups were then performed. In comparison to the autogenous group, reactive patients showed larger gray matter volumes in the right Rolandic operculum. When compared to healthy controls, reactive patients showed larger volumes in the putamen (bilaterally), while autogenous patients showed a smaller left anterior temporal lobe. Also in comparison to healthy controls, the right middle temporal gyrus was smaller in both patient subgroups. Our results suggest that autogenous and reactive obsessions depend on partially dissimilar neural substrates. Our findings provide some neurobiological support for this classification scheme and contribute to unraveling the neurobiological basis of clinical heterogeneity in OCD.
PMCID: PMC3787080  PMID: 24098688
4.  Association between the NMDA glutamate receptor GRIN2B gene and obsessive–compulsive disorder 
Recent data from neuroimaging, genetic and clinical trials and animal models suggest a role for altered glutamatergic neurotransmission in the pathogenesis of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). The aim of this study was to investigate whether variants in the GRIN2B gene, the gene encoding the NR2 subunit of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor, may contribute to genetic susceptibility to OCD or to different OCD subphenotypes.
Between 2003 and 2008, we performed a case–control association study in which we genotyped 10 tag single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the 3′ untranslated region (3′ UTR) of GRIN2B. We performed SNP association and haplotype analysis considering the OCD diagnosis and different OCD subphenotypes: early-onset OCD, comorbid tic disorders and OCD clinical symptom dimensions.
We enrolled 225 patients with OCD and 279 controls recruited from the OCD Clinic at Bellvitge Hospital (Barcelona, Spain). No significant difference in the distribution of alleles or genotypes was detected between patients with OCD and controls. Nonetheless, on analyzing OCD subphenotypes, the rs1805476 SNP in male patients (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.37–4.22, p = 0.002) and a 4-SNP haplotype in the whole sample (rs1805476, rs1805501, rs1805502 and rs1805477; odds ratio 1.92, 95% CI 1.22–3.01; permutation p = 0.023) were significantly associated with the presence of contamination obsessions and cleaning compulsions.
Study limitations included the risk of population stratification associated with the case–control design, use of psychiatrically unscreened blood donors as the control group, reduced sample size of participants with certain OCD subphenotypes and tested polymorphisms limited to 3′ UTR and exon 13 of GRIN2B.
Our results converge with recent data suggesting a possible contribution of glutamatergic variants to the genetic vulnerability to OCD or at least to certain OCD manifestations. The dissection of OCD into more homogeneous subphenotypes may constitute a useful tool to disentangle the complex genetic basis of the disorder.
PMCID: PMC3380099  PMID: 22433450
5.  Effects of Duloxetine Treatment on Brain Response to Painful Stimulation in Major Depressive Disorder 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;35(11):2305-2317.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by a constellation of affective, cognitive, and somatic symptoms associated with functional abnormalities in relevant brain systems. Painful stimuli are primarily stressful and can trigger consistent responses in brain regions highly overlapping with the regions altered in MDD patients. Duloxetine has proven to be effective in treating both core emotional symptoms and somatic complaints in depression. This study aimed to assess the effects of duloxetine treatment on brain response to painful stimulation in MDD patients. A total of 13 patients and a reference group of 20 healthy subjects were assessed on three occasions (baseline, treatment week 1, and week 8) with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during local application of painful heat stimulation. Treatment with duloxetine was associated with a significant reduction in brain responses to painful stimulation in MDD patients in regions generally showing abnormally enhanced activation at baseline. Clinical improvement was associated with pain-related activation reductions in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, right prefrontal cortex, and pons. Pontine changes were specifically related to clinical remission. Increased baseline activations in the right prefrontal cortex and reduced deactivations in the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex predicted treatment responders at week 8. This is the first fMRI study addressed to assess the effect of duloxetine in MDD. As a novel approach, the application of painful stimulation as a basic neural stressor proved to be effective in mapping brain response changes associated with antidepressant treatment and brain correlates of symptom improvement in regions of special relevance to MDD pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC3055320  PMID: 20668437
major depressive disorder; fMRI; pain; brain; treatment; duloxetine; depression; unipolar/bipolar; imaging; clinical or preclinical; mood/anxiety/stress disorders; biological psychiatry; fMRI; brain; antidepressant; depression
6.  Effect of executive functioning, decision-making and self-reported impulsivity on the treatment outcome of pathologic gambling 
Impairments in self-regulatory behaviour reflect a deficit in executive functioning and decision-making, as well as higher levels of self-reported impulsivity, and may be involved in the development and maintenance of addictive disorders. We sought to explore the association between self-reported impulsivity and neurocognitive measures, and their association with treatment outcome in pathologic gambling.
We assessed patients with pathologic gambling using executive functioning and decision-making tests and self-report measures of impulsivity. Patients underwent cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) for pathologic gambling.
We included 88 patients (8% women) in our study. High self-reported extravagance was associated with poor performance in the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT)-ABCD version. High impulsiveness, low disorderliness, high exploratory excitability (trend), poor backward block span and poor IGT-EFGH scores (trend) predicted dropout. We observed no self-reported or neurocognitive predictors of relapse or number of treatment sessions attended.
Most participants were slot-machine gamblers seeking treatment. No follow-up data and no control group were included in the study. The missing sample (i.e., individuals who were recruited and assessed in the pretreatment stage but who chose not to begin treatment) had higher extravagance scores than the final sample.
Neurocognitive reward sensitivity was related to self-reported overspending behaviour. Self-regulatory impairments (especially rash impulsiveness and punishment sensitivity) and executive dysfunction predicted only dropout of CBT in participants with pathologic gambling. Different neurocognitive processes and personality traits might mediate treatment response to psychological therapy of pathologic gambling according to the specific target variable assessed.
PMCID: PMC3080512  PMID: 21138656
7.  Modulation of the Endocannabinoids N-Arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) on Executive Functions in Humans 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66387.
Animal studies point to an implication of the endocannabinoid system on executive functions. In humans, several studies have suggested an association between acute or chronic use of exogenous cannabinoids (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and executive impairments. However, to date, no published reports establish the relationship between endocannabinoids, as biomarkers of the cannabinoid neurotransmission system, and executive functioning in humans. The aim of the present study was to explore the association between circulating levels of plasma endocannabinoids N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and executive functions (decision making, response inhibition and cognitive flexibility) in healthy subjects. One hundred and fifty seven subjects were included and assessed with the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test; Stroop Color and Word Test; and Iowa Gambling Task. All participants were female, aged between 18 and 60 years and spoke Spanish as their first language. Results showed a negative correlation between 2-AG and cognitive flexibility performance (r = −.37; p<.05). A positive correlation was found between AEA concentrations and both cognitive flexibility (r = .59; p<.05) and decision making performance (r = .23; P<.05). There was no significant correlation between either 2-AG (r = −.17) or AEA (r = −.08) concentrations and inhibition response. These results show, in humans, a relevant modulation of the endocannabinoid system on prefrontal-dependent cognitive functioning. The present study might have significant implications for the underlying executive alterations described in some psychiatric disorders currently associated with endocannabinoids deregulation (namely drug abuse/dependence, depression, obesity and eating disorders). Understanding the neurobiology of their dysexecutive profile might certainly contribute to the development of new treatments and pharmacological approaches.
PMCID: PMC3686875  PMID: 23840456
8.  Task-Induced Deactivation from Rest Extends beyond the Default Mode Brain Network 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22964.
Activity decreases, or deactivations, of midline and parietal cortical brain regions are routinely observed in human functional neuroimaging studies that compare periods of task-based cognitive performance with passive states, such as rest. It is now widely held that such task-induced deactivations index a highly organized ‘default-mode network’ (DMN): a large-scale brain system whose discovery has had broad implications in the study of human brain function and behavior. In this work, we show that common task-induced deactivations from rest also occur outside of the DMN as a function of increased task demand. Fifty healthy adult subjects performed two distinct functional magnetic resonance imaging tasks that were designed to reliably map deactivations from a resting baseline. As primary findings, increases in task demand consistently modulated the regional anatomy of DMN deactivation. At high levels of task demand, robust deactivation was observed in non-DMN regions, most notably, the posterior insular cortex. Deactivation of this region was directly implicated in a performance-based analysis of experienced task difficulty. Together, these findings suggest that task-induced deactivations from rest are not limited to the DMN and extend to brain regions typically associated with integrative sensory and interoceptive processes.
PMCID: PMC3146521  PMID: 21829564

Results 1-8 (8)