Polyvagal theory emphasizes that autonomic nervous system functioning plays a key role in social behavior and emotion. The theory predicts that psychiatric disorders of social dysfunction are associated with reduced heart rate variability, an index of autonomic control, as well as social inhibition and avoidance. The purpose of this study was to examine whether heart rate variability was reduced in treatment-seeking patients diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, a disorder characterized by social fear and avoidance.
Social anxiety patients (n = 53) were recruited prior to receiving psychological therapy. Healthy volunteers were recruited through the University of Sydney and the general community and were matched by gender and age (n = 53). Heart rate variability was assessed during a five-minute recording at rest, with participants completing a range of self-report clinical symptom measures.
Compared to controls, participants with social anxiety exhibited significant reductions across a number of heart rate variability measures. Reductions in heart rate variability were observed in females with social anxiety, compared to female controls, and in patients taking psychotropic medication compared to non-medicated patients. Finally, within the clinical group, we observed significant associations between reduced heart rate variability and increased social interaction anxiety, psychological distress, and harmful alcohol use.
The results of this study confirm that social anxiety disorder is associated with reduced heart rate variability. Resting state heart rate variability may therefore be considered a marker for social approach-related motivation and capacity for social engagement. Additionally, heart rate variability may provide a useful biomarker to explain underlying difficulties with social approach, impaired stress regulation, and behavioral inhibition, especially in disorders associated with significant impairments in these domains.
Antisocial behaviours and psychopathic traits place an individual at risk for criminality, mental illness, substance dependence, and psychosocial dysfunction. Social cognition deficits appear to be associated with psychopathic traits and are believed to contribute to interpersonal dysfunction. Most research investigating the relationship of these traits with social cognition has been conducted either in children or adult forensic settings. We investigated whether psychopathic traits were associated with social cognition in 91 young people presenting for mental healthcare (aged between 15 and 25 years). Participants completed symptom severity measures, neuropsychological tests, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test of social cognition (RMET), and the Antisocial Process Screening Device (APSD) to assess psychopathic personality traits. Correlation analyses showed poorer social cognition was associated with greater psychopathic traits (r = −.36, p = .01). Interestingly, social cognition performance predicted unique variance in concurrent psychopathic personality traits above gender, IQ sustained attention, and working memory performance. These findings suggest that social cognitive impairments are associated with psychopathic tendencies in young people presenting for community mental healthcare. Research is needed to establish the directionality of this relationship and to determine whether social cognition training is an effective treatment amongst young people with psychopathic tendencies.
After 30 years of consensus-derived diagnostic categories in mental health, it is time to head in new directions. Those categories placed great emphasis on enhanced reliability and the capacity to identify them via standardized checklists. Although this enhanced epidemiology and health services planning, it failed to link broad diagnostic groupings to underlying pathophysiology or specific treatment response.
It is time to adopt new goals that prioritize the validation of clinical entities and foster alternative strategies to support those goals. The value of new dimensions (notably clinical staging), that are both clinically relevant and directly related to emerging developmental and neurobiological research, is proposed. A strong emphasis on ‘reverse translation’ (that is, working back from the clinic to the laboratory) underpins these novel approaches. However, it relies on using diagnostic groupings that already have strong evidence of links to specific risk factors or patterns of treatment response.
The strategies described abandon the historical divides between clinical neurology, psychiatry and psychology and adopt the promotion of pathways to illness models.
Classification; Clinical staging; Mental health
This mixed-methods study was designed to explore young Australian men’s attitudes and behaviour in relation to mental health and technology use to inform the development of online mental health services for young men.
National online survey of 486 males (aged 16 to 24) and 17 focus groups involving 118 males (aged 16 to 24).
Young men are heavy users of technology, particularly when it comes to entertainment and connecting with friends, but they are also using technology for finding information and support. The focus group data suggested that young men would be less likely to seek professional help for themselves, citing a preference for self-help and action-oriented strategies instead. Most survey participants reported that they have sought help for a problem online and were satisfied with the help they received. Focus group participants identified potential strategies for how technology could be used to overcome the barriers to help-seeking for young men.
The key challenge for online mental health services is to design interventions specifically for young men that are action-based, focus on shifting behaviour and stigma, and are not simply about increasing mental health knowledge. Furthermore, such interventions should be user-driven, informed by young men’s views and everyday technology practices, and leverage the influence of peers.
Young men; Mental health; Help-seeking; Technology; Internet
It is important to understand the complex inter-relationship between depression and physical illness in order to plan and provide quality health care services for older persons and reduce suffering and early mortality. This study assessed the awareness and knowledge of age-care staff of the link between physical morbidity and depression.
One hundred and nineteen staff from both residential (high and low care) and community aged care facilities were surveyed on their awareness and knowledge of the relationship between physical morbidity and symptoms of depression. Predictors of levels of knowledge were assessed using multiple regression analysis.
Awareness of the link between physical morbidity and symptoms of depression was generally high. However, while nearly eighty percent of respondents said they had had training in mental health, they were only able to answer an average of six out of ten of the knowledge questions correctly. Predictors of knowledge were: higher age, higher educational status and working in a high care facility.
Responses to the survey questions demonstrated gaps in knowledge about the relationship between depression and physical health. The need for regular ongoing training to improve knowledge and awareness of this relationship is indicated. Treatment of physical health issues which is essential in reducing the risk for depression in older persons in aged care environments could be optimized by improved staff training.
Elderly; Depression; Physical illness
Those working with elderly care recipients require a good working knowledge of depression and appropriate help giving responses. While it is important for age-care staff to recognize depression in care recipients it is also critical that they know the appropriate course of action to assist a care recipient who may be depressed. This study aims to determine the knowledge of age-care staff of appropriate help giving responses, their confidence in knowing what kind of assistance to provide and their actual likelihood of providing help to potentially depressed care recipients and to examine if these measures improve following an intervention training program.
One hundred and two age-care staff were surveyed on their confidence in helping age-care recipients and on their knowledge of appropriate ways to provide assistance. Staff then participated in a two hour depression awareness raising intervention. The survey was repeated immediately following the training and again six months later.
Staff confidence in knowing how to provide assistance increased significantly subsequent to training and remained significantly improved at the six month follow up. In addition, a significantly higher proportion of staff reported helping care recipients at the six month follow up.
This study highlights the potential of a brief staff training program to provide a cost effective means to improve staff self-confidence and increase the likelihood of staff providing assistance to depressed care recipients.
Depression; Older people; Intervention
Background and Aim
Mild to moderate depression is common in those with cardiovascular disease and undertreated. We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of internet-delivered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (iCBT) on depressive symptom severity and adherence to medical advice and lifestyle interventions in adults with mild to moderate depression and high cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks.
Randomised double-blind, 12 week attention-controlled trial comparing an iCBT programme (E-couch) with an internet-delivered attention control health information package (HealthWatch, n = 282). The primary outcome was depression symptom level on the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) (trial registration: ACTRN12610000085077).
487/562 (88%) participants completed the endpoint assessment. 383/562 (70%) were currently treated for cardiovascular disease and 314/562 (56%) had at least one other comorbid condition. In ITT analysis of 562 participants iCBT produced a greater decline in the mean PHQ-9 score compared to the attention control of 1.06 (95% CI: 0.23–1.89) points, with differences between the two arms increasing over the intervention period (time by treatment effect interaction p = .012). There were also larger improvements in adherence (2.16 points; 95% CI: 0.33–3.99), reductions in anxiety (0.96 points; 95% CI: 0.19–1.73), and a greater proportion engaging in beneficial physical activity (Odds Ratio 1.91, 95%CI: 1.01–3.61) in the iCBT participants but no effect upon disability, or walking time/day. There were no withdrawals due to study related adverse events.
In people with mild to moderate depression and high levels of CVD risk factors, a freely accessible iCBT programme (http://www.ecouch.anu.edu.au) produced a small, but robust, improvement in depressive symptoms, adherence and some health behaviours.
Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000085077
Clinical psychiatry has always been limited by the lack of objective tests to substantiate diagnoses and a lack of specific treatments that target underlying pathophysiology. One area in which these twin failures has been most frustrating is major depression. Due to very considerable progress in the basic and clinical neurosciences of sleep-wake cycles and underlying circadian systems this situation is now rapidly changing.
The development of specific behavioral or pharmacological strategies that target these basic regulatory systems is driving renewed clinical interest. Here, we explore the extent to which objective tests of sleep-wake cycles and circadian function - namely, those that measure timing or synchrony of circadian-dependent physiology as well as daytime activity and nighttime sleep patterns - can be used to identify a sub-class of patients with major depression who have disturbed circadian profiles.
Once this unique pathophysiology is characterized, a highly personalized treatment plan can be proposed and monitored. New treatments will now be designed and old treatments re-evaluated on the basis of their effects on objective measures of sleep-wake cycles, circadian rhythms and related metabolic systems.
Major depression; Sleep-wake cycle; Circadian rhythms
To date, most studies of white matter changes in Bipolar Disorder (BD) have been conducted in older subjects and with well-established disorders. Studies of young people who are closer to their illness onset may help to identify core neurobiological characteristics and separate these from consequences of repeated illness episodes or prolonged treatment. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used to examine white matter microstructural changes in 58 young patients with BD (mean age 23 years; range 16–30 years) and 40 controls. Whole brain voxelwise measures of fractional anisotropy (FA), parallel diffusivity (λ//) and radial diffusivity (λ⊥) were calculated for all subjects. White matter microstructure differences (decreased FA corrected p<.05) were found between the patients with BD and controls in the genu, body and splenium of the corpus callosum as well as the superior and anterior corona radiata. In addition, significantly increased radial diffusivity (p<.01) was found in the BD group. Neuroimaging studies of young patients with BD may help to clarify neurodevelopmental aspects of the illness and for identifying biomarkers of disease onset and progression. Our findings provide evidence of microstructural white matter changes early in the course of illness within the corpus callosum and the nature of these changes suggest they are associated with abnormalities in the myelination of axons.
Clinical symptoms and neuropsychological deficits are longitudinally associated with functional outcome in chronic psychiatric cohorts. The current study extended these findings to young and early-course psychiatric outpatients, with the aim of identifying cognitive markers that predict later socio-occupational functioning.
At baseline, 183 young psychiatric outpatients were assessed. Ninety-three returned for follow-up (M = 21.6 years old; SD = 4.5) with an average re-assessment interval of 21.6 months (SD = 7.0), and primary diagnoses of major depressive disorder (n = 34), bipolar disorder (n = 29), or psychosis (n = 30). The primary outcome measure was cross-validated with various other functional measures and structural equation modelling was used to map out the interrelationships between predictors and later functional outcome.
Good socio-occupational functioning at follow-up was associated with better quality of life, less disability, current employment and being in a romantic relationship. The final structural equation model explained 47.5% of the variability in functional outcome at follow-up, with baseline neuropsychological functioning (a composite of memory, working memory and attentional switching) the best independent predictor of later functional outcome. Notably, depressive and negative symptoms were only associated with functioning cross-sectionally. Diagnosis at follow-up was not associated with functional outcome.
Neuropsychological functioning was the single best predictor of later socio-occupational outcome among young psychiatric outpatients. Therefore, framing psychiatric disorders along a neuropsychological continuum is likely to be more useful in predicting functional trajectory than traditional symptom-based classification systems. The current findings also have implications for early intervention utilising cognitive remediation approaches.
To determine the prevalence of recent alcohol, nicotine or cannabis use in young persons presenting for mental healthcare.
A cross-sectional study of young people seeking mental healthcare completed self-report questionnaires regarding their use of alcohol, nicotine or cannabis.
Data were collected from two sites as part of the national headspace services programme.
2122 young people aged 12–30 years provided information as part of a patient register; a subset of N=522 participants also provided more detailed information about their patterns of alcohol use.
Prevalence levels of recent alcohol, nicotine or cannabis use within relevant age bands (12–17, 18–19 and 20–30) or primary diagnostic categories.
The rates for use at least weekly of alcohol for the three age bands were 12%, 39% and 45%, and for cannabis 7%, 14% and 18%, respectively. The rates of daily nicotine use for the three age bands were 23%, 36% and 41%. The pattern of alcohol use was characterised by few abstainers as well as many risky drinkers. Age of onset across all three substances was approximately 15 years. Individuals who used any of the three substances more frequently were likely to be older, male or have psychotic or bipolar disorders.
Frequent use of alcohol, nicotine or cannabis in young people seeking mental healthcare is common. Given the restricted legal access, the patterns of use in those aged 12–17 years are particularly notable. Reductions in substance use needs to be prioritised within services for at-risk young people.
Alcohol; Depression; Mental Health; Psychiatry
Graph theory can be applied to matrices that represent the brain’s anatomical connections, to better understand global properties of anatomical networks, such as their clustering, efficiency and “small-world” topology. Network analysis is popular in adult studies of connectivity, but only one study – in just 30 subjects – has examined how network measures change as the brain develops over this period. Here we assessed the developmental trajectory of graph theory metrics of structural brain connectivity in a cross-sectional study of 467 subjects, aged 12 to 30. We computed network measures from 70×70 connectivity matrices of fiber density generated using whole-brain tractography in 4-Tesla 105-gradient high angular resolution diffusion images (HARDI). We assessed global efficiency and modularity, and both age and age2 effects were identified. HARDI-based connectivity maps are sensitive to the remodeling and refinement of structural brain connections as the human brain develops.
graph theory; high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI); tractography; network analyses; development; structural connectivity
In the past decade, research has demonstrated that cortical plasticity, once thought only to exist in the early stages of life, does indeed continue on into adulthood. Brain plasticity is now acknowledged as a core principle of brain function and describes the ability of the central nervous system to adapt and modify its structural organization and function as an adaptive response to functional demand. In this clinical case study we describe how we used neuroimaging techniques to observe the functional topographical expansion of a patch of cortex along the sensorimotor cortex of a 27-year-old woman following brachial plexus transfer surgery to re-innervate her left arm. We found bilateral activations present in the thalamus, caudate, insula as well as across the sensorimotor cortex during an elbow flex motor task. In contrast we found less activity in the sensorimotor cortex for a finger tap motor task in addition to activations lateralized to the left inferior frontal gyrus and thalamus and bilaterally for the insula. From a pain perspective the patient who had experienced extensive phantom limb pain (PLP) before surgery found these sensations were markedly reduced following transfer of the right brachial plexus to the intact left arm. Within the context of this clinical case the results suggest that functional improvements in limb mobility are associated with increased activation in the sensorimotor cortex as well as reduced PLP.
brachial plexus transfer; phantom limb; motor cortex; neuroimaging; MRI
Reducing suicidal behaviour is a major public health goal. Expanding access to care has been identified as a key strategy. In Australia, a national network of primary-care based services (headspace) has been established for young people with mental ill-health. This study determines the socio-demographic, psychopathological and illness-stage correlates of suicidal ideation in young persons attending headspace services.
Suicidal ideation was recorded using the specific suicide item of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) in a cohort of subjects aged 12-30 years (N = 494) attending headspace services.
Of the 494 young persons assessed, 32% (158/494) had a positive response to any level of the HDRS suicide item, consisting of 16% (77/494) reporting that life was not worth living and a further 16% (81/494) reported thoughts of death or suicidal ideation. Young women (19%; 94/494) were more likely to report any positive response as compared with young men (13%; 64/494) [χ2(2,494) = 13.6, p < .01]. Those with ‘attenuated syndromes’ reported positive responses at rates comparable to those with more established disorders (35% vs. 34%; χ2(1,347) = 0.0, p = 0.87). However, more serious levels of suicidal ideation were more common in those with depressive disorders or later stages of illness. In multivariate analyses, the major predictors of the degree of suicidal ideation were increasing levels of clinician-rated depressive symptoms (beta = 0.595, p < .001), general psychopathology (beta = 0.198, p < .01), and self-reported distress (beta = 0.172, p < .05).
Feelings that life is not worth living, thoughts of death or suicidal ideation are common in young people seeking mental health care. These at-risk cognitions are evident before many of these individuals develop severe or persistent mental disorders. Thoughts of death or suicidal ideation may well need to be a primary intervention target in these young people.
Suicide; Clinical staging; Psychiatric; Youth
We have recently shown that the event-related potential biomarkers, mismatch negativity (MMN) and P3a, are similarly impaired in young patients with schizophrenia- and affective-spectrum psychoses as well as those with bipolar disorder. A data driven approach may help to further elucidate novel patterns of MMN/P3a amplitudes that characterise distinct subgroups in patients with emerging psychiatric disorders.
Eighty seven outpatients (16 to 30 years) were assessed: 19 diagnosed with a depressive disorder; 26 with a bipolar disorder; and 42 with a psychotic disorder. The MMN/P3a complex was elicited using a two-tone passive auditory oddball paradigm with duration deviant tones. Hierarchical cluster analysis utilising frontal, central and temporal neurophysiological variables was conducted.
Three clusters were determined: the ‘globally impaired’ cluster (n = 53) displayed reduced frontal and temporal MMN as well as reduced central P3a amplitudes; the ‘largest frontal MMN’ cluster (n = 17) were distinguished by increased frontal MMN amplitudes and the ‘largest temporal MMN’ cluster (n = 17) was characterised by increases in temporal MMN only. Notably, 55% of those in the globally impaired cluster were diagnosed with schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, whereas the three patient subgroups were equally represented in the remaining two clusters. The three cluster-groups did not differ in their current symptomatology; however, the globally impaired cluster was the most neuropsychologically impaired, compared with controls.
These findings suggest that in emerging psychiatric disorders there are distinct MMN/P3a profiles of patient subgroups independent of current symptomatology. Schizophrenia-spectrum patients tended to show the most global impairments in this neurophysiological complex. Two other subgroups of patients were found to have neurophysiological profiles suggestive of quite different neurobiological (and hence, treatment) implications.
Young men are particularly vulnerable to suicide, drug, and alcohol problems and yet fail to seek appropriate help. An alternative or adjunct to face-to-face services has emerged with widespread uptake of the Internet and related communication technologies, yet very little evidence exists that examines the capacity of the Internet to engage young men and promote help seeking.
To explore young people’s attitudes and behaviors in relation to mental health and technology use. The aim was to identify key gender differences to inform the development of online mental health interventions for young men.
A cross-sectional online survey of 1038 young people (aged 16 to 24 years) was used.
Young men are more likely than young women to play computer games, access online video/music content, and visit online forums. More than half of young men and women reported that they sought help for a problem online, and the majority were satisfied with the help they received. Significant gender differences were identified in relation to how young people would respond to a friend in need, with young men being less likely than young women to confront the issue directly.
Online interventions for young men need to be action-oriented, informed by young men’s views and everyday technology practices, and leverage the important role that peers play in the help-seeking process.
Young men; mental health; technology; service design and delivery; digital age; Internet use; games
Mismatch negativity (MMN) and P3a are event-related potentials that index deviance detection and the orienting response, respectively. We have previously shown that the MMN/P3a complex is impaired in patients with schizophrenia and affective spectrum psychoses, which suggests that it may index a common pathophysiology and argues against the purported specificity in schizophrenia. Further research is warranted to determine whether patients with bipolar-spectrum disorders show similar impairments in these biomarkers.
We assessed patients aged 15–30 years with early schizophrenia-spectrum disorders (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, schizophreniform disorder), early bipolar-spectrum disorders (bipolar I or II, with and without psychotic features) and healthy, matched controls. We acquired MMN/P3a amplitudes during a 2-tone, auditory paradigm with 8% duration deviants. Clinical, psychosocial and neuropsychological assessments were also undertaken.
We included 20 patients with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, 20 with bipolar-spectrum disorders and 20 controls in our study. Both patient groups showed significantly reduced frontocentral MMN and central P3a amplitudes. The schizophrenia-spectrum group had additional impairments in left temporal MMN and frontal P3a. Both patient groups performed worse than controls across psychosocial and clinical measures; however, only the schizophrenia-spectrum group performed significantly worse than controls for cognitive measures. Correlational analyses between patient groups revealed associations between frontocentral or left temporal MMN and psychiatric symptomatology or quality of life measures.
Limitations to our study include the modest sample size and the lack of control with regards to the effects of other (i.e., nonantipsychotic) psychotropic medications.
Compared with patients in early stages of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, those in the early stages of bipolar-spectrum disorders are similarly impaired in established biomarkers for schizophrenia. These findings support a shared diathesis model for psychotic and bipolar disorders. Furthermore, MMN/P3a may be a biomarker for a broader pathophysiology that overlaps traditional diagnostic clusters.
Oxytocin (OT) plays a key regulatory role in human social behaviour. While prior studies have examined the effects of OT on observable social behaviours, studies have seldom examined the effects of OT on psychophysiological markers such as heart rate variability (HRV), which provides an index of individual’s motivation for social behaviour. Furthermore, no studies have examined the impact of OT on HRV under resting conditions, which provides an index of maximal capacity for social engagement.
To examine the effects of OT on HRV measures in healthy male participants while at rest. OT was hypothesised to increase HRV, compared to placebo, and that the effects would be greatest for a non-linear measure of HRV (the detrended fluctuation scaling exponent).
Twenty-one male participants were recruited for this study. Participants were non-smokers, not on any medications and reported no history of psychiatric illness, neurological disorder, or any other serious medical condition (e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular disease). The study employed a randomised, placebo-controlled, within-subject, crossover, experimental design.
Main Outcome Measures
HRV was calculated from electrocardiography under a standardized, 10-minute, resting state condition.
As hypothesised, OT increased HRV and these effects were largest using the detrended fluctuation scaling exponent, a non-linear measure. These changes were observed in the absence of any change in state mood, as measured by the profile of mood states. Importantly, participants were unable to correctly guess which treatment they had been assigned at either of the two assessments.
Together with the broader literature on OT and HRV, findings suggest that acute administration of OT may facilitate a fundamental psychophysiological feature of social behaviour, increasing capacity for social engagement. Findings also suggest that HRV changes may provide a novel biomarker of response to OT nasal spray that can be incorporated into research on response to treatment.
The anterior insula cortex is considered to be both the structural and functional link between experience, affect, and behaviour. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have shown changes in anterior insula gray matter volume (GMV) in psychosis, bipolar, depression and anxiety disorders in older patients, but few studies have investigated insula GMV changes in young people. This study examined the relationship between anterior insula GMV, clinical symptom severity and neuropsychological performance in a heterogeneous cohort of young people presenting for mental health care.
Participants with a primary diagnosis of depression (n = 43), bipolar disorder (n = 38), psychosis (n = 32), anxiety disorder (n = 12) or healthy controls (n = 39) underwent structural MRI scanning, and volumetric segmentation of the bilateral anterior insula cortex was performed using the FreeSurfer application. Statistical analysis examined the linear and quadratic correlations between anterior insula GMV and participants’ performance in a battery of clinical and neuropsychological assessments.
Compared to healthy participants, patients had significantly reduced GMV in the left anterior insula (t = 2.05, p = .042) which correlated with reduced performance on a neuropsychological task of attentional set-shifting (ρ = .32, p = .016). Changes in right anterior insula GMV was correlated with increased symptom severity (r = .29, p = .006) and more positive symptoms (r = .32, p = .002).
By using the novel approach of examining a heterogeneous cohort of young depression, anxiety, bipolar and psychosis patients together, this study has demonstrated that insula GMV changes are associated with neurocognitive deficits and clinical symptoms in such young patients.
Insula; Depression; Anxiety; Bipolar; Psychosis; MRI; Symptoms; Executive function
The aim of the current study was to delineate the psychiatric profile of cannabis dependent young people (14–29 years old) with mental health problems (N = 36) seeking treatment via a research study. To do so, the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR Axis I Disorders and the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Childhood Diagnoses were used to obtain DSM-IV diagnoses, while a modified Timeline Followback interview and self-reports were used to measure cannabis use, cannabis-related problems, and impairment. Most individuals had at least two Axis I disorders in addition to cannabis dependence. Anxiety disorders were common, with posttraumatic stress disorder, social phobia, and generalised anxiety disorder accounting for the majority of these diagnoses. On average, young people reported a moderate degree of dependence and functional impairment, and a substantial number of cannabis-related problems. Although both males and females reported using similar quantities of cannabis per month, females reported using cannabis more frequently than males. The current data suggest that young people who present for cannabis use treatment in the context of a mental health issue may have a variety of psychiatric problems that need addressed and that males and females may have slightly different profiles. If cannabis use treatments are to advance for this population, more attention needs to be paid to the complex issues that young people present to treatment with.
Cannabis use; Cannabis dependence; Comorbidity; Anxiety; Mood disorders; Young people
White matter microstructure is under strong genetic control, yet it is largely unknown how genetic influences change from childhood into adulthood. In one of the largest brain mapping studies ever performed, we determined whether the genetic control over white matter architecture depends on age, sex, socioeconomic status (SES), and intelligence quotient (IQ). We assessed white matter integrity voxelwise using diffusion tensor imaging at high magnetic field (4-Tesla), in 705 twins and their siblings (age range 12–29; 290 M/415 F). White matter integrity was quantified using a widely accepted measure, fractional anisotropy (FA). We fitted gene-environment interaction models pointwise, to visualize brain regions where age, sex, SES and IQ modulate heritability of fiber integrity. We hypothesized that environmental factors would start to outweigh genetic factors during late childhood and adolescence. Genetic influences were greater in adolescence versus adulthood, and greater in males than in females. Socioeconomic status significantly interacted with genes that affect fiber integrity: heritability was higher in those with higher SES. In people with above-average IQ, genetic factors explained over 800% of the observed FA variability in the thalamus, genu, posterior internal capsule, and superior corona radiata. In those with below-average IQ, however, only around 40% FA variability in the same regions was attributable to genetic factors. Genes affect fiber integrity, but their effects vary with age, sex, SES and IQ. Gene-environment interactions are vital to consider in the search for specific genetic polymorphisms that affect brain integrity and connectivity.
genetics; cognition; twins; white matter; diffusion imaging; gene-environment interaction
More severe and persistent forms of affective disorders are accompanied by grey matter loss in key frontal and temporal structures. It is unclear whether such changes precede the onset of illness, occur early in the course or develop gradually with persistence or recurrence of illness. A total of 47 young people presenting with admixtures of depressive and psychotic symptoms were recruited from specialist early intervention services along with 33 age matched healthy control subjects. All participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging and patients were rated clinically as to current stage of illness. Twenty-three patients were identified as being at an early 'attenuated syndrome' stage, while the remaining were rated as having already reached the 'discrete disorder' or 'persistent or recurrent illness' stage. Contrasts were carried out between controls subjects and patients cohorts with attenuated syndromes and discrete disorders, separately.
The patients that were identified as having a discrete or persisting disorder demonstrated decreased grey matter volumes within distributed frontal brain regions when contrasted to both the control subjects as well as those patients in the attenuated syndrome stage. Overall, patients who were diagnosed as more advanced in terms of the clinical stage of their illness, exhibited the greatest grey matter volume loss of all groups.
This study suggests that, in terms of frontal grey matter changes, a major transition point may occur in the course of affective illness between early attenuated syndromes and later discrete illness stages.
VBM; clinical staging; psychosis; bipolar disorder; depression; MRI
This paper aims to present an overview of screening and safety considerations for the treatment of clinical depressive disorders and make recommendations for safety monitoring.
Data were sourced by a literature search using MEDLINE and a manual search of scientific journals to identify relevant articles. Draft guidelines were prepared and serially revised in an iterative manner until all co-authors gave final approval of content.
Screening and monitoring can detect medical causes of depression. Specific adverse effects associated with antidepressant treatments may be reduced or identified earlier by baseline screening and agent-specific monitoring after commencing treatment.
The adoption of safety monitoring guidelines when treating clinical depression is likely to improve overall physical health status and treatment outcome. It is important to implement these guidelines in the routine management of clinical depression.
As the popularity of e-therapies grows, so too has the body of literature supporting their effectiveness. However, these interventions are often plagued by high attrition rates and varying levels of user adherence. Understanding the role of adherence may be crucial to understanding how program usage influences the effectiveness of e-therapy interventions.
The aim of this study was to systematically review the e-therapy literature to (1) describe the methods used to assess adherence and (2) evaluate the association of adherence with outcome of these interventions.
A systematic review of e-therapy interventions was conducted across disease states and behavioral targets. Data were collected on adherence measures, outcomes, and analyses exploring the relationship between adherence measures and outcomes.
Of 69 studies that reported an adherence measure, only 33 (48%) examined the relationship between adherence and outcomes. The number of logins was the most commonly reported measure of adherence, followed by the number of modules completed. The heterogeneity of adherence and outcome measures limited analysis. However, logins appeared to be the measure of adherence most consistently related to outcomes in physical health interventions, while module completion was found to be most related to outcomes in psychological health interventions.
There is large variation in the reporting of adherence and the association of adherence with outcomes. A lack of agreement about how best to measure adherence is likely to contribute to the variation in findings. Physical and psychological outcomes seem influenced by different types of adherence. A composite measure encompassing time online, activity completion, and active engagements with the intervention may be the best measure of adherence. Further research is required to establish a consensus for measuring adherence and to understand the role of adherence in influencing outcomes.
Adherence; persistence; online therapy; e-therapy; systematic review
Subjective memory complaints (SMC) are common but their significance is still unclear. It has been suggested they are a precursor of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia and an early indicator of cognitive decline. Vascular risk factors have an important role in the development of dementia and possibly MCI. We therefore aimed to test the hypothesis that vascular risk factors were associated with SMC, independent of psychological distress, in a middle-aged community-dwelling population.
A cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from the 45 and Up Study was performed. This is a cohort study of people living in New South Wales (Australia), and we explored the sample of 45, 532 participants aged between 45 and 64 years. SMC were defined as 'fair' or 'poor' on a self-reported five-point Likert scale of memory function. Vascular risk factors of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and smoking were identified by self-report. Psychological distress was measured by the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale. We tested the model generated from a randomly selected exploratory sample (n = 22, 766) with a confirmatory sample of equal size.
5, 479/45, 532 (12%) of respondents reported SMC. Using multivariate logistic regression, only two vascular risk factors: smoking (OR 1.18; 95% CI = 1.03 - 1.35) and hypercholesterolaemia (OR 1.19; 95% CI = 1.04 - 1.36) showed a small independent association with SMC. In contrast psychological distress was strongly associated with SMC. Those with the highest levels of psychological distress were 7.00 (95% CI = 5.41 - 9.07) times more likely to have SMC than the non-distressed. The confirmatory sample also demonstrated the strong association of SMC with psychological distress rather than vascular risk factors.
In a large sample of middle-aged people without any history of major affective illness or stroke, psychological distress was strongly, and vascular risk factors only weakly, associated with SMC, although we cannot discount psychological distress acting as a mediator in any association between vascular risk factors and SMC. Given this, clinicians should be vigilant regarding the presence of an affective illness when assessing middle-aged patients presenting with memory problems.