Objective: There is increasing evidence that schizophrenia patients have difficulties in the hedonic appraisal of odors. In a prior study, we assessed olfactory hedonic perception birhinally and found that males with schizophrenia failed to attach the appropriate hedonic valence to a pleasant odor, despite correctly perceiving changes in odor intensity. Female patients, in contrast, exhibited normal responses. The current study extends this work by examining odor valence processing in unaffected first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients, to determine the extent to which this abnormality may be genetically mediated. We also examine odor valence processing unirhinally, rather than birhinally, to probe possible lateralized differences in patients’ hedonic processing deficits. Method: Individuals with schizophrenia (n = 54), first-degree unaffected family members (n = 22), and demographically matched controls (n = 45) were administered the Suprathreshold Amyl Acetate Odor Intensity and Odor Pleasantness Rating Test. Results: In contrast to family members and controls, both male and female schizophrenia probands underevaluated the hedonic characteristics of amyl acetate at lower concentrations and overevaluated its pleasantness at concentrations perceived as unpleasant by both controls and relatives. These patient-specific differences could not be explained by differences in smoking habit, medication use, or subjective ratings of odor intensity. However, they were associated with increased levels of anhedonia/asociality and negative symptomatology. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that both male and female schizophrenia patients have difficulties in the unirhinal appraisal of hedonic valence. Normal responses in unaffected first-degree relatives suggest that this is an environmentally, rather than genetically, mediated abnormality denoting negative symptomatology.
smell; olfactory; valence processing; pleasantness; emotion; olfaction
Reports suggesting that schizophrenia participants are more likely to be phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) non-tasters when compared to controls have recently been controversial. If supported, a genetic-based phenotypic variation in PTC taster status is implicated, suggesting a greater illness risk for those participants with recessive alleles for the TAS2R38 receptor. Should PTC insensitivity be a schizophrenia endophenotype, then it would be expected in follow-up of ultra high-risk for psychosis participants who later develop schizophrenia (UHR-S). UHR-S were hypothesised to show reduced PTC sensitivity compared to those who were previously at risk, but did not transition (UHR-NP). PTC perception was assessed in 219 UHR participants at long-term follow-up, of whom 53 had transitioned to psychosis (UHR-P) during the follow-up period. Fifteen of the 219 participants were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Seventy-eight had a family history of psychotic disorder. No differences in PTC taster status were found in UHR participants based upon transition to psychosis status, schizophrenia diagnosis, or family history of schizophrenia. This report indicates that schizophrenia development among UHR participants is not associated with PTC tasting deficits and fails to support previous findings that inability to detect the bitter taste of PTC is a schizophrenia endophenotype.
TASTE; ENDOPHENOTYPE; PREDICTION; MENTAL ILLNESS; PSYCHOSIS; RISK
While olfactory deficits have been reported in schizophrenia and youths at-risk for psychosis, few studies have linked these deficits to current pathophysiological models of the illness. There is evidence that disrupted cyclic adenosine 3’,5’-monophosphate (cAMP) signaling may contribute to schizophrenia pathology. As cAMP mediates olfactory signal transduction, the degree to which this disruption could manifest in olfactory impairment was ascertained. Odor-detection thresholds to two odorants that differ in the degree to which they activate intracellular cAMP were assessed in clinical risk and low-risk participants.
Birhinal assessments of odor-detection threshold sensitivity to lyral and citralva were acquired in youths experiencing prodromal symptoms (n = 17) and controls at low risk for developing psychosis (n = 15). Citralva and lyral are odorants that differ in cAMP activation; citralva is a strong cAMP activator and lyral is a weak cAMP activator.
The overall group-by-odor interaction was statistically significant. At-risk youths showed significantly reduced odor detection thresholds for lyral, but showed intact detection thresholds for citralva. This odor-specific threshold deficit was uncorrelated with deficits in odor identification or discrimination, which were also present. ROC curve analysis revealed that olfactory performance correctly classified at-risk and low-risk youths with greater than 97% accuracy.
This study extends prior findings of an odor-specific hyposmia implicating cAMP-mediated signal transduction in schizophrenia and unaffected first-degree relatives to include youths at clinical risk for developing the disorder. These results suggest that dysregulation of cAMP signaling may be present during the psychosis prodrome.
schizophrenia prodrome; ultra high risk; cAMP; adenosine cyclase; DISC1
While deficits in odor identification and discrimination have been reported in schizophrenia, few studies have examined the relative specificity of these deficits in patients and at-risk youth.
Sniffin’ Sticks odor identification and discrimination were assessed in schizophrenia outpatients and non-ill first-degree relatives (Study One), as well as youth at clinical (CR) or genetic (GR) risk for schizophrenia (Study Two). Scores were z-transformed, using the performance of a demographically-matched adult or adolescent comparison group.
Patients and relatives were impaired on odor identification, but odor discrimination impairment was limited to the patient group. A similar pattern of impairment emerged in at-risk youth. GR youth were impaired on odor identification but not discrimination, while CR youth were impaired on both tasks. In patients, olfactory impairment was correlated with negative symptomatology.
To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that CR youth are impaired on both olfactory tasks, as observed in adult schizophrenia patients. GR youth were impaired only on odor identification like their adult counterparts. These data suggest that odor identification impairment, in isolation, may represent a genetic marker of vulnerability for schizophrenia, while odor discrimination deficits may be a biomarker associated with the development of psychosis.
olfaction; smell; prodrome; negative symptoms; psychosis prone
Late-life minor depression (miD) is a prevalent but poorly understood illness. Verbal learning and memory profiles have commonly been used to characterize neuropsychiatric disorders. This study compared the performance of 27 older adults with miD on the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) with 26 age-matched individuals with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and 36 non-depressed controls. Results revealed that the miD group performed comparably with controls and significantly better than the MDD group on several CVLT indices. Moreover, cluster analysis revealed three distinct groups, consistent with theoretical representations of “normal,” “subcortical,” and “cortical” verbal learning and memory profiles. The majority of the miD group showed “normal” profiles (74%), whereas most individuals with MDD displayed “subcortical” profiles (54%). The findings suggest that depression in the elderly is a heterogeneous entity and that the CVLT may be a useful tool for characterizing learning and memory in late-onset depressive disorders.
Depression; Minor; Elderly; Late-onset; CVLT; Verbal learning and memory
The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) val158met polymorphism has received attention in schizophrenia due to its role in prefrontal dopamine catabolism. Given the rich dopaminergic innervations of the olfactory bulb and the influence of dopamine on the transmission of olfactory signals, we examined the influence of COMT genotype status on the olfactory processing impairment observed in schizophrenia. The University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test was administered unirhinally to individuals with schizophrenia (n = 42) and a demographically-matched sample of healthy controls (n = 30). Individuals were genotyped for the COMT val158met polymorphism. A statistically significant interaction of diagnosis and COMT genotype was observed, such that schizophrenia heterozygotes and Met homozygotes showed impaired odor identification accuracy relative to Val158 homozygotes. These findings could not be explained by factors such as antipsychotic medication status, clinical symptomatology, or demographic and illness characteristics. Notably, the schizophrenia Val158 homozygotes’ odor identification performance was comparable to that of the control group. These data indicate that odor identification impairments observed in schizophrenia are influenced by the COMT val158met polymorphism. This relationship is consistent with specific dopaminergic modulation of primary olfactory sensory afferents, rather than a broader effect on cognitive processes. Future studies examining the olfactory processing deficit in schizophrenia with respect to other olfactory measures and COMT haplotypes is warranted.
dopamine; olfaction; smell; COMT; genetics
Computerized neurocognitive batteries based on advanced behavioral neuroscience methods are increasingly used in large-scale clinical and genomic studies. Favorable construct validity in younger schizophrenia patients has been reported, but not in older patients. New variables afforded by computerized assessments were used to clarify age-associated cognitive impairment across the lifespan.
624 patients with schizophrenia and 624 healthy comparison (HC) subjects aged 16–75 completed a 1–2 hour computerized neurocognitive battery (CNB) that assessed abstraction and mental flexibility, attention, working memory, recognition memory (verbal, facial, spatial), language, visuospatial and emotion processing. Linear mixed effects models tested for group differences in accuracy, response time, and efficiency scores. Contrasts were stratified by age.
91% of older (45+) and 94% of younger (<45) groups provided “good” data quality. After controlling for parental education and project, there were significant three-way interactions for diagnosis x domain x age group on all three outcome variables. Patients performed worse than HC across all neurocognitive domains, except in the oldest group of 60+ patients. Age-stratified analyses did not show differences between younger (16–45) and older patients (45–60, 60+), except for the attention domain. Older patients’ reduced working memory efficiency was due to worse speed, not accuracy. Older patients were quicker than younger patients in processing emotions.
Computerized assessments are feasible in large cohorts of schizophrenia patients. There is stable and generalized neurocognitive dysfunction across the lifespan in schizophrenia, albeit with fewer differences in some domains between older patients and HC after age 60. Speed-accuracy tradeoff strategies suggest deceleration of some frontal networks and improvements in speed of emotional processing.
Schizophrenia; neuropsychology; aging
Although olfactory deficits are common in schizophrenia, their underlying pathophysiology remains unknown. Recent evidence has suggested that cAMP signaling may be disrupted in schizophrenia. Since cAMP mediates signal transduction in olfactory receptor neurons, this could contribute to the etiology of observed olfactory deficits. This study was designed to test this hypothesis by determining odor detection threshold sensitivities to two odorants that differ in their relative activations of this intracellular cAMP signaling cascade.
Thirty schizophrenia patients, 25 healthy comparison subjects, and 19 unaffected first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients were studied. Odor detection threshold sensitivities were measured for the two odorants citralva and lyral. Although both have fruity/floral scents, citralva strongly activates adenylyl cyclase to increase cAMP levels, while lyral is a very weak activator of adenylyl cyclase.
There was a significant group-by-odor interaction. Both schizophrenia patients and unaffected first-degree relatives were impaired in their ability to detect lyral versus citralva. Comparison subjects were equally sensitive to both odorants. This selective deficit could not be explained by differences in age, sex, smoking, clinical symptom profile, or medication use.
This study establishes the presence of an odor-specific hyposmia that may denote a disruption of cAMP-mediated signal transduction in schizophrenia. The presence of a parallel deficit in the patients’ unaffected first-degree relatives suggests that this deficit is genetically mediated. Although additional physiological studies are needed to confirm the underlying mechanism, these results offer strong inferential support for the hypothesis that cAMP signaling is dys-regulated in schizophrenia.
Olfactory impairments are a common feature of schizophrenia. Impairments in odor detection and odor identification are present early in the course of illness and among those at risk for the disorder. These behavioral impairments have been linked to both physiological and anatomical abnormalities in the neural substrates subserving olfaction, including relatively peripheral elements of the olfactory system. The location of olfactory receptor neurons in the nasal epithelium allows noninvasive access to these neurons in living subjects. This offers a unique opportunity to directly assess neuronal integrity in vivo in patients. The peripheral olfactory receptor neuron response to odor stimulation was assessed in 21 schizophrenia patients and 18 healthy comparison subjects. The electroolfactogram, representing the electrical depolarization of the olfactory receptor neurons, was recording following stimulation with different doses and durations of hydrogen sulfide, a pure olfactory nerve stimulant. Schizophrenia patients had abnormally large depolarization responses following odor stimulation, independent of clinical symptomatology, antipsychotic medication dosage or smoking history. Although the precise pathophysiological mechanism is unknown, this olfactory receptor neuron abnormality is consistent with several lines of evidence suggesting altered proliferation or maturation of olfactory receptor neuron cell lineages in schizophrenia. It is also consistent with emerging evidence of disruptions of cyclic AMP-mediated intracellular signaling mechanisms, and may be a marker of these disruptions. It unambiguously demonstrates that neurophysiological disturbances in schizophrenia are not limited to cortical and subcortical structures, but rather include even the most peripheral sensory neurons.
schizophrenia; olfaction; olfactory receptor neuron; olfactory epithelium; electroolfactogram; signal transduction
To assess regions and patterns of brain atrophy in patients with Parkinson disease (PD) with normal cognition (PD-NC), mild cognitive impairment (PD-MCI), and dementia-level cognitive deficits (PDD).
Images were quantified using a region-of-interest approach and voxel-based morphometry analysis. We used a high-dimensional pattern classification approach to delineate brain regions that collectively formed the Spatial Pattern of Abnormalities for Recognition of PDD.
The Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Eighty-four PD patients (61 PD-NC, 12 PD-MCI, and 11 PDD) and 23 healthy control subjects (HCs) underwent magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.
The PD-NC patients did not demonstrate significant brain atrophy compared with HCs. Compared with PD-NC patients, PD-MCI patients had hippocampal atrophy (β=−0.37; P=.001), and PDD patients demonstrated hippocampal (β=−0.32; P=.004) and additional medial temporal lobe atrophy (β=−0.36; P=.003). The PD-MCI patients had a different pattern of atrophy compared with PD-NC patients (P=.04) and a similar pattern to that of PDD patients (P=.81), characterized by hippocampal, prefrontal cortex gray and white matter, occipital lobe gray and white matter, and parietal lobe white matter atrophy. In nondemented PD patients, there was a correlation between memory-encoding performance and hippocampal volume.
Hippocampal atrophy is a biomarker of initial cognitive decline in PD, including impaired memory encoding and storage, suggesting heterogeneity in the neural substrate of memory impairment. Use of a pattern classification approach may allow identification of diffuse regions of cortical gray and white matter atrophy early in the course of cognitive decline.
Objective: Cognitive deficits are among the most reliable predictors of functional impairment in schizophrenia and a particular concern for older individuals with schizophrenia. Previous reviews have focused on the nature and course of cognitive impairments in younger cohorts, but a quantitative meta-analysis in older patients is pending. Method: A previously used search strategy identified studies assessing performance on tests of global cognition and specific neuropsychological domains in older patients with schizophrenia and age-matched comparison groups. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies were included. Potential methodological, demographic, and clinical moderators were analyzed. Results: Twenty-nine cross-sectional (2110 patients, 1738 comparison subjects) and 14 longitudinal (954 patients) studies met inclusion criteria. Patients were approximately 65 years old, with 11 years of education, 53% male and 79% Caucasian. Longitudinal analysis (range 1–6 years) revealed homogeneity with small effect sizes (d = −0.097) being observed. Cross-sectional analyses revealed large and heterogeneous deficits in global cognition (d = −1.19) and on specific neuropsychological tests (d = −0.7 to −1.14). Moderator analysis revealed a significant role for demographic (age, sex, education, race) and clinical factors (diagnosis, inpatient status, age of onset, duration of illness, positive and negative symptomology). Medication status (medicated vs nonmedicated) and chlorpromazine equivalents were inconsequential, albeit underrepresented. Conclusions: Large and generalized cognitive deficits in older individuals with schizophrenia represent a robust finding paralleling impairments across the life span, but these deficits do not decline over a 1–6 year period. The importance of considering demographic and clinical moderators in cross-sectional analyses is highlighted.
schizophrenia; neuropsychology; meta-analysis; elderly
Hyposmia, psychiatric disorders and cognitive problems are common non-motor manifestations in Parkinson's Disease but how they are related remains unclear.
To investigate the relationship between olfactory dysfunction and neuropsychiatric manifestations we performed a cross-sectional study of 248 patients at two movement disorders clinics at academic medical centers. Psychiatric measures were the Geriatric Depression Scale-15, Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology, State Anxiety Inventory, Apathy Scale and Parkinson's Psychosis Rating Scale. Cognitive measures were the Mini Mental State Examination, Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised, Digit Span, Tower of London-Drexel and the Stroop Color Word Test. Olfaction was tested with the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification test.
There was no significant association between olfaction and mood measures, but psychotic symptoms were more common in patients with olfaction scores below the median (30% vs. 12%, p<0.001). Worse olfaction was associated with poorer memory (Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised delayed recall items: mean(standard deviation) 6.2(3.2) vs. 8.4(2.8), p<0.001) and executive performance (Tower of London total moves, 52(38) vs. 34(21), p<0.001). Odor-identification score was a significant predictor of abnormal performance on these cognitive tests after adjustment for age, sex and disease characteristics in logistic regression models.
The relationship between hyposmia, psychosis, and specific cognitive impairments may reflect the anatomic distribution of Lewy pathology and suggests that olfactory dysfunction could be a biomarker of additional extranigral disease. Future prospective studies are warranted to assess whether hyposmia, a very early feature of Parkinson's disease, might be used to predict the appearance of other common non-motor symptoms.
Parkinson's Disease; olfaction; non-motor symptoms; psychiatric symptoms; cognitive symptoms
Recent work on odor hedonics in schizophrenia has indicated that patients display abnormalities in hedonic judgments of odors in comparison to healthy comparison participants. In the current study, identification accuracy for pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant odors in individuals with schizophrenia and healthy controls was examined. Thirty-three schizophrenia patients (63% male) and thirty-one healthy volunteers (65% male) were recruited. The groups were well matched on age, sex, and smoking status. Participants were administered the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test, which was subsequently divided into 16 pleasant, 15 neutral, and 9 unpleasant items. Analysis of identification z-scores for pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant odors revealed a significant diagnosis by valence interaction. Post-hoc analysis revealed that schizophrenia participants made more identification errors on pleasant and neutral odors compared to healthy controls, with no differences observed for unpleasant odors. No effect was seen for sex. The findings from the current investigation suggest that odor identification accuracy in patients is influenced by odor valence. This pattern of results parallels a growing body of literature indicating that patients display aberrant pleasantness ratings for pleasant odors and highlights the need for additional research on the influence of odor valence on olfactory identification performance in individuals with schizophrenia.
olfaction; olfactory; hedonics; anhedonia; pleasantness
We describe the cognitive function of older adults presenting with Bipolar Disorder (BD) and mania. We examine whether longer lifetime duration of BD is associated with greater cognitive dysfunction. We also examine whether there are negative, synergistic effects between lifetime duration of BD and vascular disease burden on cognition.
87 non-demented individuals with BD I ages 60 years and older, experiencing manic, hypomanic, or mixed episodes, were assessed with the Dementia Rating Scale (DRS) and the Framingham Stroke Risk Profile (FSRP) as a measure of vascular disease burden.
Subjects had a mean (SD) age of 68.7 (7.1) years and 13.6 (3.1) years of education; 50.6% (n=44) were females; 89.7% (n=78) white and 10.3% (n=9) black. They presented with overall and domain-specific cognitive impairment: in memory, visuospatial ability, and executive function, compared to age-adjusted norms. Lifetime duration of BD was not related to DRS total score, any other subscale scores, or vascular disease burden. FSRP scores were related to the DRS memory subscale scores, but not total scores or any other domain scores. A negative interactive effect between lifetime duration of BD and FSRP was only observed with the DRS construction subscale.
In this study, lifetime duration of BD had no significant relationship with overall cognitive function in older non-demented adults. Greater vascular disease burden was associated with worse memory function. There was no synergistic relationship between lifetime duration of BD and vascular disease burden on overall cognition function. Addressing vascular disease, especially early on in the course of BD, may mitigate cognitive impairment in older age.
Bipolar Disorder; Cognition; Aged
Objectives: A considerable body of literature has reported on emotion perception deficits and the relevance to clinical symptoms and social functioning in schizophrenia. Studies published between 1970–2007 were examined regarding emotion perception abilities between patient and control groups and potential methodological, demographic, and clinical moderators. Data Sources and Review: Eighty-six studies were identified through a computerized literature search of the MEDLINE, PsychINFO, and PubMed databases. A quality of reporting of meta-analysis standard was followed in the extraction of relevant studies and data. Data on emotion perception, methodology, demographic and clinical characteristics, and antipsychotic medication status were compiled and analyzed using Comprehensive Meta-analysis Version 2.0 (Borenstein M, Hedges L, Higgins J and Rothstein H. Comprehensive Meta-analysis. 2. Englewood, NJ: Biostat; 2005). Results: The meta-analysis revealed a large deficit in emotion perception in schizophrenia, irrespective of task type, and several factors that moderated the observed impairment. Illness-related factors included current hospitalization and—in part—clinical symptoms and antipsychotic treatment. Demographic factors included patient age and gender in controls but not race. Conclusion: Emotion perception impairment in schizophrenia represents a robust finding in schizophrenia that appears to be moderated by certain clinical and demographic factors. Future directions for research on emotion perception are discussed.
schizophrenia; meta-analysis; emotion perception
Olfactory dysfunction is common in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative diseases. PHFtau, α-synuclein and amyloid-β lesions occur early and severely in cerebral regions of the olfactory system and they have also been observed in olfactory epithelium (OE). However, their frequency, abundance, disease specificity, and relationships of OE pathology to brain pathology have not been established.
We investigated the pathological expression of amyloid-β, PHFtau, α-synuclein, and TDP-43 in postmortem OE of 79 cases with AD, 63 cases with various other neurodegenerative diseases, and 45 neuropathologically normal cases.
Amyloid-β was present as punctate and small patchy aggregates in 71% of AD cases compared to 22% of normal cases and 14% of cases with other diseases and in greater amounts in AD than either of the other two diagnostic categories. PHFtau was evident in dystrophic neurites in 55% of cases with AD, 34% with normal brains, and 39% with other neurodegenerative diseases, also at higher densities in AD. α-Synuclein was present in dystrophic neurites in seven cases, six of whom also had cerebral Lewy bodies. Pathological TDP-43 inclusions were not observed in the OE in any cases. Amyloid-β and to a lesser degree, PHFtau ratings in OE significantly correlated with cortical Aβ and PHFtau lesion ratings in the brain.
These data demonstrate that AD pathology in the OE is present in the majority of cases with pathologically verified AD and correlates with brain pathology. Future work may assess the utility of amyloid-β and PHFtau measurement in OE as a biomarker for AD.
Major psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and mood disorders have not been linked to a specific pathology, but their clinical features overlap with some aspects of the behavioral variant of frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Although the significance of pathological 43-kDa (transactivation response) DNA-binding protein (TDP-43) for frontotemporal lobar degeneration was appreciated only recently, the prevalence of TDP-43 pathology in patients with severe mental illness vs controls has not been systematically addressed.
To examine patients with chronic psychiatric diseases, mainlyschizophrenia, for evidence of neurodegenerative TDP-43 pathology in comparison with controls.
Prospective longitudinal clinical evaluation and retrospective medical record review, immunohistochemical identification of pathological TDP-43 in the central nervous system, and genotyping for gene alterations known to cause TDP-43 proteinopathies including the TDP-43 (TARDBP) and progranulin (GRN) genes.
University health system.
One hundred fifty-one subjects including 91 patients with severe mental illness (mainly schizophrenia) and 60 controls.
Main Outcome Measures
Clinical medical record review, neuronal and glial TDP-43 pathology, and TARDP and GRN genotyping status.
Significant TDP-43 pathology in the amygdala/periamygdaloid region or the hippocampus/transentorhinal cortex was absent in both groups in subjects younger than 65 years but present in elderly subjects (29% [25 of 86] of the psychiatric patients and 29% [10 of 34] of control subjects). Twenty-three percent (8 of 35) of the positive cases showed significant TDP-43 pathology in extended brain scans. There were no evident differences between the 2 groups in the frequency, degree, or morphological pattern of TDP-43 pathology. The latter included (1) subpial and subependymal, (2) focal, or (3) diffuse lesions in deep brain parenchyma and (4) perivascular pathology. A new GRN variant of unknown significance (c.620T>C, p.Met207Thr) was found in 1 patient with schizophrenia with TDP-43 pathology. No known TARDBP mutations or other variants were found in any of the subjects studied herein.
The similar findings of TDP-43 pathology in elderly patients with severe mental illness and controls suggest common age-dependent TDP-43 changes in limbic brain areas that may signify that these regions are affected early in the course of a cerebral TDP-43 multisystem proteinopathy. Finally, our data provide an age-related baseline for the development of whole-brain pathological TDP-43 evolution schemata.
Embryonic insults during early gestation increase the risk of schizophrenia. Abnormal forebrain development during this period is often characterized by a shallow olfactory sulcus. The adjacent orbital sulcus does not develop until the third trimester and so is immune to early intrauterine insults. We measured olfactory and orbital sulcal depths in 36 patients and 28 control subjects. Patients had shallower olfactory sulci, but normal orbital sulci. Olfactory and orbital sulcal depths were correlated in controls, but not in patients. Olfactory sulcal depth may therefore be a biomarker denoting an early embryonic disruption in individuals at risk for schizophrenia.
schizophrenia; olfactory sulcus; orbital sulcus; neurodevelopment; embryogenesis; vulnerability
Among the sensory modalities, olfaction is most closely associated with the frontal and temporal brain regions that are implicated in schizophrenia and most intimately related to the affective and mnemonic functions that these regions subserve. Olfactory probes may therefore be ideal tools through which to assess the structural and functional integrity of the neural substrates that underlie disease-related cognitive and emotional disturbances. Perhaps more importantly, to the extent that early sensory afferents are also disrupted in schizophrenia, the olfactory system—owing to its strategic anatomic location—may be especially vulnerable to such disruption. Olfactory dysfunction may therefore be a sensitive indicator of schizophrenia pathology and may even serve as an “early warning” sign of disease vulnerability or onset. In this article, we review the evidence supporting a primary olfactory sensory disturbance in schizophrenia. Convergent data indicate that structural and functional abnormalities extend from the cortex to the most peripheral elements of the olfactory system. These reflect, in part, a genetically mediated neurodevelopmental etiology. Gross structural and functional anomalies are mirrored by cellular and molecular abnormalities that suggest decreased or faulty innervation and/or dysregulation of intracellular signaling. A unifying mechanistic hypothesis may be the epigenetic regulation of gene expression. With the opportunity to obtain olfactory neural tissue from live patients through nasal epithelial biopsy, the peripheral olfactory system offers a uniquely accessible window through which the pathophysiological antecedents and sequelae of schizophrenia may be observed. This could help to clarify underlying brain mechanisms and facilitate identification of clinically relevant biomarkers.
neurodevelopment; genetics; biomarkers; evoked potentials; olfactory receptor neurons; olfactory bulb
Cognitive impairment occurs in the majority of Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients, but little is known about detection of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in this population. We report on the frequency and characteristics of cognitive deficits in PD patients with intact global cognition based on Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) performance.
One hundred and six PD patients with normal age- and education-adjusted MMSE scores (mean [SD] score = 29.1 [1.1]) were administered standardized neuropsychological tests assessing memory, executive function, and attention. Impairment on a cognitive domain was a low score (i.e., ≥1.5 SD below the published normative mean) on at least two measures or tests (for memory and executive abilities) or a single measure (for attention).
Mild cognitive impairment was found in 29.2% of PD patients, with 17.9% demonstrating single domain and 11.3% multiple domain impairment. Memory and attention impairment were most common (15.1% and 17.0%, respectively), followed by executive impairment (8.5%). Depending on the measure of disease severity chosen, increasing age and disease severity, anti-anxiety medication use, and a suggestion for increasing severity of daytime sleepiness were independent predictors of cognitive impairment.
Cognitive deficits are common in PD patients with “normal” cognition based on MMSE performance, suggesting that MCI is under-recognized in clinical practice due to routine use of insensitive screening instruments. In contrast with some previous reports, early memory impairment may be as common as either executive or attentional deficits in PD. In addition, psychiatric medication use and daytime sleepiness may be reversible or treatable contributors to cognitive impairment.
Mild cognitive impairment; Parkinson’s disease; Mini-Mental State Examination; Neuropsychology
To examine Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) performance in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) with “normal” global cognition according to Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score.
A cross-sectional comparison of the MoCA and the MMSE.
Two movement disorders centers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
A convenience sample of 131 patients with idiopathic PD who were screened for cognitive and psychiatric complications.
Subjects were administered the MoCA and MMSE, and only subjects defined as having a normal age- and education-adjusted MMSE score were included in the analyses (N = 100). As previously recommended in patients without PD, a MoCA score less than 26 was used to indicate the presence of at least mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Mean MMSE and MoCA scores ± standard deviation were 28.8 ± 1.1 and 24.9 ± 3.1, respectively. More than half (52.0%) of subjects with normal MMSE scores had cognitive impairment according to their MoCA score. Impairments were seen in numerous cognitive domains, including memory, visuospatial and executive abilities, attention, and language. Predictors of cognitive impairment on the MoCA using univariate analyses were male sex, older age, lower educational level, and greater disease severity; older age was the only predictor in a multivariate model.
Approximately half of patients with PD with a normal MMSE score have cognitive impairment based on the recommended MoCA cutoff score. These results suggest that MCI is common in PD and that the MoCA is a more sensitive instrument than the MMSE for its detection.
cognitive impairment; Parkinson’s disease; Mini-Mental State Examination; Montreal Cognitive Assessment; neuropsychology
Efforts to characterize genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia are increasingly focused on the identification of endophenotypes - neurobiological abnormalities that are evident in individuals at risk. Behavioral studies have demonstrated olfactory impairments in odor detection and identification in unaffected 1st-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients, suggesting that abnormalities in this simple sensory system may serve as candidate endophenotypes. It is unclear, however, whether these behavioral abnormalities reflect basic olfactory sensory processing deficits or nonspecific disruptions of attention and cognition.
Unirhinal chemosensory olfactory evoked potentials were acquired from 14 unaffected 1st-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients and 20 healthy individuals with equivalent age and gender distributions, using 3 different concentrations of hydrogen sulfide. Subjects were also assessed behaviorally for ability to detect and identify odors.
Family members exhibited left nostril olfactory detection impairments and bilateral olfactory identification abnormalities. They had reduced evoked potential response amplitudes for the initial N1 component in the left nostril. The subsequent P2 evoked potential response was reduced bilaterally. The pattern and magnitude of family member deficits were comparable to those previously observed for schizophrenia patients.
1st-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients exhibit specific neurophysiological impairments in early olfactory sensory processing. The presence of these neurophysiological abnormalities in both schizophrenia patients and their unaffected 1st-degree relatives suggests that these represent genetically mediated vulnerability markers or endophenotypes of the illness.
schizophrenia; olfaction; endophenotype; evoked potentials; genetic vulnerability
We previously reported that men with schizophrenia had reduced volumes of the posterior nasal cavity bilaterally. Since the nasal cavities develop in conjunction with both the palate and ventral forebrain, this could represent a simple marker of embryological dysmorphogenesis contributing to schizophrenia. The current study expands on this finding by examining a larger sample of both male and female patients and unaffected 1st-degree relatives, to determine the gender distribution of this abnormality and the extent to which it may be genetically mediated.
A measurement of nasal volume and geometry was acquired by acoustic rhinometry for 85 schizophrenia patients, 25 unaffected first-degree relatives of schizophrenia probands and 66 healthy comparison subjects.
Male patients had smaller posterior nasal volumes than both male control subjects and male relatives. However, female patients did not differ from either female controls or female family members. Unaffected first-degree relatives did not differ from same-sex control subjects. These findings persisted after covarying for height and smoking history, and were unrelated to clinical symptomatology or antipsychotic medication usage.
Posterior nasal cavity volume decrement appears to be a specific developmental craniofacial abnormality that may reflect an early disruption in embryological development in males with schizophrenia. Although further study is needed, this may be a marker of a “second hit” that distinguishes genetically vulnerable men who go on to develop the illness from those who do not.
schizophrenia; nasal volume; neurodevelopment; embryogenesis; genetic vulnerability
The inability to taste phenylthiocarbamide (PTC; “taste-blindness”) has been associated with a number of medical and neurological illnesses not typically related to taste. We examined PTC sensitivity in 67 schizophrenia patients, 30 healthy controls, and 30 first-degree relatives to determine whether taster status could represent a simple vulnerability marker. A higher prevalence of non-tasters was seen in patients and family members relative to healthy controls. Among patients, non-tasters exhibited increased levels of negative and first-rank symptoms as well as poorer right-nostril odor identification skills relative to PTC tasters. These differences were not explained by age, sex, education, smoking, or intensity differences. Phenotypic variation in PTC sensitivity is thought to be genetic in origin and suggests greater illness risk for those subjects with recessive taster alleles.
Schizophrenia; Family; Taste; Phenylthiocarbamide; PTC; Genetics