Anxiolytic benefit following chronic treatment with the glutamate modulating agent riluzole in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) was previously associated with differential changes in hippocampal NAA concentrations. Here, we investigated the association between hippocampal volume and hippocampal NAA in the context of riluzole response in GAD. Eighteen medication-free adult patients with GAD received 8-week of open-label riluzole. Ten healthy subjects served as a comparison group. Participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy at baseline and at the end of Week 8. GAD patients who completed all interventions were classified as remitters (n = 7) or non-remitters (n = 6), based on final Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) scores ≤ 7. At baseline, GAD patients had a significant reduction in total hippocampal volume compared to healthy subjects (F(1,21) = 6.55, p = 0.02). This reduction was most pronounced in the remitters, compared to non-remitters and healthy subjects. Delta (final – baseline) hippocampal volume was positively correlated with delta NAA in GAD. This positive association was highly significant in the right hippocampus in GAD [r = 0.81, p = 0.002], with no significant association in healthy subjects [Fisher r-to-z p = 0.017]. Across all GAD patients, delta hippocampal volume was positively associated with improvement in HAM-A (rspearman = 0.62, p = 0.03). These preliminary findings support hippocampal NAA and volume as neural biomarkers substantially associated with therapeutic response to a glutamatergic drug.
Riluzole; generalized anxiety disorder; biomarkers; glutamate; N-Acetylaspartate; hippocampal volume; magnetic resonance spectroscopy
To investigate the mechanism underlying the anxiolytic properties of riluzole, a glutamate-modulating agent, we previously studied the effect of this drug on hippocampal N-Acetylaspartate (NAA) and volume in patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). In the same cohort, we now extend our investigation to the occipital cortex, a brain region that was recently implicated in the antidepressant effect of riluzole.
Fourteen medication-free adult patients with GAD received 8-week of open-label riluzole. Ten healthy subjects served as a comparison group. The healthy group did not receive riluzole treatment. Both groups underwent magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy at baseline and at the end of Week 8. Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) and Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ) were used as the primary and secondary outcome measures, respectively.
At baseline, we found clusters of increased cortical thickness in the occipital region in GAD compared to healthy subjects. In the right hemisphere, eight weeks of treatment reduced occipital cortical thickness in the GAD group (t = 3.67, p = 0.004). In addition, the improvement in HAM-A scores was negatively correlated with post-treatment right occipital NAA (r = − 0.68, p = 0.008), and with changes in NAA levels (r = − 0.53, p = 0.051). In the left hemisphere, we found positive associations between changes in occipital cortical thickness and improvement in HAM-A (r = 0.60, p = 0.04) and PSWQ (r = 0.62, p = 0.03).
These pilot findings implicate the occipital cortex as a brain region associated with pathology and clinical improvement in GAD. In addition, the region specific effect of riluzole implies a distinct pathophysiology in the occipital cortex – compared to other, previously studied, frontolimbic brain structures.
Riluzole; generalized anxiety disorder; biomarkers; glutamate; N-Acetylaspartate; occipital cortex; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; structural MRI
The role of the prefrontal cortex as an executive oversight of posterior brain regions raises the question of the extent to which the anterior regions of the brain interconnect with the posterior regions. The aim of this study is to test the complexity of rostral white matter tracts, which connect anterior and posterior brain regions, in comparison to caudal white matter tracts and the corpus callosum. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a modality that measures fractional anisotropy (FA). Higher white matter complexity could result in a decrease of FA, possibly through denser intersection of fiber tracts. DTI was used to determine regional FA in 9 healthy bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata). Four regions of interest were included: anterior and posterior limbs of the internal capsule, the occipital lobe white matter, and the corpus callosum. FA of the anterior limbs of the internal capsule was lowest compared to all other regions of interest (Newman-Keuls (N-K); p < 0.0001), whereas FA of the corpus callosum was highest (N-K; p < 0.0001). The posterior limbs of the internal capsule and the occipital white matter were not distinguishable but exhibited intermediate FA in comparison to the former (N-K; p < 0.0001) and the latter (N-K; p < 0.0001). The current study demonstrates that FA, a measure of white matter complexity, can vary markedly as a function of region of interest. Moreover, validation of these findings using neurohistological studies and replication in human samples appears warranted.
Diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; white matter; gap junctions; nonhuman primates; neuroimaging; neurodevelopment
Although there have been numerous studies of suicidality in younger populations with schizophrenia, there have been no studies focused on community-dwelling older adults with schizophrenia. This study provides data on the prevalence of suicidality and factors associated with previous suicide attempts among a mixed racial sample of older persons with schizophrenia living in New York City.
The schizophrenia group consisted of 198 persons aged ≥55 years who developed schizophrenia before age 45. A community comparison group (n=113) was recruited using randomly selected block-groups. Fifteen predictor variables of lifetime suicide attempts based on a risk model of suicide in schizophrenia were identified.
Persons in the schizophrenia group had a significantly higher prevalence of current and lifetime “suicidality” (i.e., wants to be dead, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts) when compared to the community group (current: 10% versus 2%; lifetime: 56% versus 7%) as well as past suicidal attempts (30% versus 4%). Within the schizophrenia group, in logistic regression analysis, 2 variables were significantly associated with lifetime suicidal attempts: current syndromal depression and higher scores on the Traumatic and Victimization Scale.
The data confirmed that in later life, persons with schizophrenia continue to have a higher prevalence of suicidality than their age peers in the community. Our findings underscore the importance of monitoring for suicidality in this age group. The relative paucity of risk factors means that practitioners can more easily focus their therapeutic efforts on at-risk individuals.
Elderly; schizophrenia; suicide; epidemiology
Male bonnet monkeys (Macaca radiata) were subjected to the Variable Foraging Demand (VFD) early stress paradigm as infants, MRI scans were completed an average of four years later, and behavioral assessments of anxiety and ex-vivo corpus callosum (CC) measurements were made when animals were fully matured. VFD rearing was associated with smaller CC size, CC measurements were found to correlate with fearful behavior in adulthood, and ex-vivo CC assessments showed high consistency with earlier MRI measures. Region of Interest (ROI) hippocampus and whole brain voxel- based morphometry assessments were also completed and VFD rearing was associated with reduced hippocampus and inferior and middle temporal gyri volumes. Animals were also characterized according to serotonin transporter genotype (5-HTTLPR), and the effect of genotype on imaging parameters was explored. The current findings highlight the importance of future research to better understand the effects of stress on brain development in multiple regions, including the corpus callosum, hippocampus, and other regions involved in emotion processing. Nonhuman primates provide a powerful model to unravel the mechanisms by which early stress and genetic makeup interact to produce long-term changes in brain development, stress reactivity, and risk for psychiatric disorders.
stress; monkeys; corpus callosum; hippocampus; brain abnormalities; 5-HTTLPR
The present study investigated the effect of early life stress in adolescent rats on brain metabolites, serum corticosterone, and depressive-like behavior. A group of rats were subject to early life stress from postnatal day (PND) 1 to 14. A matched control group was studied. Behavioral tests, serum corticosterone and high-resolution proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy were conducted between PND 30 and 40. In this study, adolescent rats exposed to early life stress demonstrated depressive-like behavior and increased serum corticosterone during adolescence. They also showed reduced glutamate, glutamine, and N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) levels in the prefrontal cortex. A reduced myo-inositol level, consistent with astroglial deficits, was observed but was not statistically significant. Together, these findings characterize the effect of early life stress on adolescent animals and underscore the long-lasting and detrimental effects of childhood adversities.
We previously demonstrated an inverse relationship between both dentate gyrus neurogenesis – a form of neuroplasticity – and expression of the antiapoptotic gene marker, BCL-2 and adult macaque body weight. We therefore explored whether a similar inverse correlation existed in humans between body mass index (BMI) and hippocampal N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), a marker of neuronal integrity and putatively, neuroplasticity. We also studied the relationship of a potentially neurotoxic process, worry, to hippocampal NAA in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and control subjects (CS).
We combined two previously studied cohorts of GAD and control subjects. Using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging (1H MRSI) in medication-free patients with GAD (n = 29) and a matched healthy control group (n = 22), we determined hippocampal concentrations of (1) NAA (2) choline containing compounds (CHO), and (3) Creatine + phosphocreatine (CR). Data were combined from 1.5 T and 3 T scans by converting values from each cohort to z-scores. Overweight and GAD diagnosis were used as categorical variables while the Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ) and Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI) were used as dependent variables.
Overweight subjects (BMI ≥ 25) exhibited lower NAA levels in the hippocampus than normal-weight subjects (BMI < 25) (partial Eta-squared = 0.14) controlling for age, sex and psychiatric diagnosis, and the effect was significant for the right hippocampus in both GAD patients and control subjects. An inverse linear correlation was noted in all subjects between right hippocampal NAA and BMI. High scores on the PSWQ predicted low hippocampal NAA and CR. Both BMI and worry were independent inverse predictors of hippocampal NAA.
Overweight was associated with reduced NAA concentrations in the hippocampus with a strong effect size. Future mechanistic studies are warranted.
•Overweight people show reduced concentrations of hippocampal N-acetylaspartate (NAA).•Reduced NAA reflects reduced neuronal viability.•There is an inverse relationship between BMI and hippocampal NAA.•Worry scores are independently associated with lower NAA.•Generalized anxiety disorder did not show low hippocampal NAA.
Body mass index; Generalized anxiety disorder; Penn State Worry Questionnaire; Neuronal integrity; Creatine (CR); Obesity
First-line treatment of major depression includes administration of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), yet studies suggest that remission rates following two trials of an SSRI are <50%. The authors examine the putative biological substrates underlying “treatment resistant depression (TRD)” with the goal of elucidating novel rationales to treat TRD. We look at relevant articles from the preclinical and clinical literature combined with clinical exposure to TRD patients. A major focus was to outline pathophysiological mechanisms whereby the serotonin system becomes impervious to the desired enhancement of serotonin neurotransmission by SSRIs. A complementary focus was to dissect neurotransmitter systems, which serve to inhibit the dorsal raphe. We propose, based on a body of translational studies, TRD may not represent a simple serotonin deficit state but rather an excess of midbrain peri-raphe serotonin and subsequent deficit at key fronto-limbic projection sites, with ultimate compromise in serotonin-mediated neuroplasticity. Glutamate, serotonin, noradrenaline, and histamine are activated by stress and exert an inhibitory effect on serotonin outflow, in part by “flooding” 5-HT1A autoreceptors by serotonin itself. Certain factors putatively exacerbate this scenario – presence of the short arm of the serotonin transporter gene, early-life adversity and comorbid bipolar disorder – each of which has been associated with SSRI-treatment resistance. By utilizing an incremental approach, we provide a system for treating the TRD patient based on a strategy of rescuing serotonin neurotransmission from a state of SSRI-induced dorsal raphe stasis. This calls for “stacked” interventions, with an SSRI base, targeting, if necessary, the glutamatergic, serotonergic, noradrenergic, and histaminergic systems, thereby successively eliminating the inhibitory effects each are capable of exerting on serotonin neurons. Future studies are recommended to test this biologically based approach for treatment of TRD.
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; treatment-resistant depression; glutamate; somatodendritic 5-HT1A autoreceptors; dorsal raphe; hippocampus; lamotrigine; α2-heteroreceptors
Background: Children exposed to early life stress (ELS) exhibit enlarged amygdala volume in comparison to controls. The primary goal of this study was to examine amygdala volumes in bonnet macaques subjected to maternal variable foraging demand (VFD) rearing, a well-established model of ELS. Preliminary analyses examined the interaction of ELS and the serotonin transporter gene on amygdala volume. Secondary analyses were conducted to examine the association between amygdala volume and other stress-related variables previously found to distinguish VFD and non-VFD reared animals.
Methods: Twelve VFD-reared and nine normally reared monkeys completed MRI scans on a 3T system (mean age = 5.2 years).
Results: Left amygdala volume was larger in VFD vs. control macaques. Larger amygdala volume was associated with: “high” cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of corticotropin releasing-factor (CRF) determined when the animals were in adolescence (mean age = 2.7 years); reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) of the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) during young adulthood (mean age = 5.2 years) and timid anxiety-like responses to an intruder during full adulthood (mean age = 8.4 years). Right amygdala volume varied inversely with left hippocampal neurogenesis assessed in late adulthood (mean age = 8.7 years). Exploratory analyses also showed a gene-by-environment effect, with VFD-reared macaques with a single short allele of the serotonin transporter gene exhibiting larger amygdala volume compared to VFD-reared subjects with only the long allele and normally reared controls.
Conclusion: These data suggest that the left amygdala exhibits hypertrophy after ELS, particularly in association with the serotonin transporter gene, and that amygdala volume variation occurs in concert with other key stress-related behavioral and neurobiological parameters observed across the lifecycle. Future research is required to understand the mechanisms underlying these diverse and persistent changes associated with ELS and amygdala volume.
amygdala; early life stress; non-human primates; MRI; stress; serotonin transporter gene
Sensory gating deficits have been found in patients with schizophrenia and their unaffected relatives. However, the underlying neurobiological mechanism of this deficit remains unclear. Pre-clinical studies have implicated adenosine in sensory gating deficits in schizophrenia. Therefore, the current study investigated a possible relationship between peripheral adenosine A2A receptor (ADORA2A) and sensory gating indices (P50 measures) in medication-free schizophrenia (n = 31) and healthy (n = 21) groups. The effects of six-week antipsychotic treatment were examined. At baseline, schizophrenia patients showed impaired sensory gating compared to healthy controls. However, there was no significant difference in ADORA2A gene expression among groups. In addition, ADORA2A expression was not correlated with sensory gating at any time point. Following treatment, we found a significant upregulation of ADORA2A expression. Intriguingly, we observed a significant positive association between ADORA2A upregulation and baseline P50 amplitudes in the schizophrenia group. A main finding of the current pilot study is the upregulation of ADORA2A expression following treatment with antipsychotics. In addition, this upregulation was predicted by baseline P50 amplitude, an observation that awaits replication in an expanded sample.
sensory gating; antipsychotic; adenosine; schizophrenia
Studies now provide strong evidence that the NMDA receptor antagonist ketamine possesses rapidly acting antidepressant properties. This study aimed to determine if low dose ketamine could be used to expedite and augment the antidepressant effects of electroconvulsive therapy treatments in patients experiencing a severe depressive episode.
Subjects with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder referred for ECT treatment of a major depressive episode were randomized to receive thiopental alone or thiopental plus ketamine (0.5 mg/kg) for anesthesia prior to each ECT session. Hamilton Depression Rating Scales (HDRS) were administered at baseline, and 24 – 72 h following the 1st and the 6th ECT sessions.
ECT exerted a significant antidepressant effect in both groups (F(2,24) = 14.35, p < .001). However, there was no significant group effect or group-by-time interaction on HDRS scores. Additionally, post-hoc analyses of the time effect on HDRS showed no significant HDRS reduction after the 1st ECT session for either group.
The results of this pilot study suggest that ketamine, at a dose of 0.5 mg/kg, given just prior to ECT, did not enhance the antidepressant effect of ECT. Interestingly, the results further suggest that the co-administration of ketamine with a barbiturate anesthetic and ECT may attenuate the acute antidepressant effects of NMDA antagonist.
ECT; Ketamine; rapid; antidepressant; barbiturate
Obesity is associated with the insulin resistance metabolic syndrome, postulated to be mediated by stress-induced alterations within the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. In adult bonnet macaques we examined relationships between components of the metabolic syndrome, hippocampal neurometabolic asymmetry, an indicator of negative affect, and juvenile cerebrospinal fluid (csf) corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) levels obtained after stress exposure associated with maternal food insecurity and in controls.
Eleven adult male monkeys (seven with early life stress) who had undergone csf-CRF analyses as juveniles had magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) of bilateral hippocampus, morphometry (body mass index, BMI; sagittal abdominal diameter, SAD) and determination of fasting plasma glucose and insulin as adults. Neurometabolite ratios included N-acetyl-aspartate as numerator (NAA; a marker of neuronal integrity) and choline (Cho; cell turnover) and creatine (Cr; reference analyte) as denominators.
Elevated juvenile csf-CRF levels positively predicted adult BMI and SAD and were associated with right > left shift of NAA ratio within the hippocampus. Adult visceral obesity and insulin level correlated with right > left shift in hippocampal NAA concentrations, controlling for age and denominator.
Juvenile csf-CRF levels, a neuropeptide associated with early life stress, predict adult visceral obesity and hippocampal asymmetry supporting the hypothesis that metabolic syndrome in adults may be related to early life stress. Furthermore, this study demonstrates asymmetrical hippocampal alterations related to obesity.
Corticotropin releasing factor; hippocampus; stress; metabolic syndrome; food insecurity; obesity
Recent studies have indicated a gene by environment interaction between serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) polymorphism and childhood abuse on depressive symptoms. In addition, persistent elevation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) concentrations following early-life adversity has been posited to underlie the subsequent development of major depression. This pilot study tested the hypothesis that elevations of juvenile CSF CRF concentrations are, in part, determined by an interaction between polymorphisms of the 5-HTTLPR and early-life stress. Nine juvenile male bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) had been raised under variable foraging demand (VFD) conditions, a nonhuman primate model of early-life stress, whereas nine subjects were normatively raised under LFD (low foraging demand) conditions. Genotyping revealed that four (44.4%) of the VFD-reared monkeys possessed at least one “s” allele whereas five VFD monkeys were of the l/l genotype. Of the nine LFD subjects, two (22%) had the s/l genotype and seven had the l/l genotype. A “juvenile” CSF sample was obtained at approximately three years of age. CSF CRF concentrations were elevated specifically in the VFD “s/s” and “s/l” allele group in comparison to each of the remaining three groups, indicating a gene by environment (GxE) interaction.
Nonhuman primates; corticotropin-releasing hormone; early-life stress; serotonin transporter gene; major depression; anxiety disorders; gene by environment interaction
We tested the hypothesis that early life stress would persistently compromise neuronal viability of the hippocampus of the grown nonhuman primate. Neuronal viability was assessed through ascertainment of N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) – an amino acid considered reflective of neuronal density/functional integrity – using in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI). The subjects reported herein represent a re-analysis of a sample of nineteen adult male bonnet macaques that had been reared in infancy under induced stress by maternal variable foraging demand (VFD) (N = 10) or control rearing conditions (N = 9). The MRSI spectral readings were recorded using a GE 1.5 Tesla machine under anesthesia. Relative NAA values were derived using NAA as numerator and both choline (Cho) or creatine (Cr) as denominators. Left medial temporal lobe (MTL) NAA/Cho but not NAA/Cr was decreased in VFD subjects versus controls. An MTL NAA/Cho ratio deficit remained significant when controlling for multiple confounding variables. Regression analyses suggested that the NAA/Choline finding was due to independently low left NAA and high left choline. Right MTL showed no rearing effects for NAA, but right NAA was positively related to body mass, irrespective of denominator. The current data indicate that decreased left MTL NAA/Cho may reflect low neuronal viability of the hippocampus following early life stress in VFD-reared versus normally-reared subjects. Given the importance of the hippocampus in stress-mediated toxicity, validation of these data using absolute quantification is suggested and correlative neurohistological studies of hippocampus are warranted.
Early-Life Stress; Nonhuman Primate; Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy; Hippocampus; N-Acetyl-Aspartate; Brain laterality
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) may be effective in treating depression. Parental verbal abuse has been linked to decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) of white matter and reduced FA correlated with depression and anxiety scores. Utilizing a nonhuman primate model of mood and anxiety disorders following disrupted mother-infant attachment, we examined whether adverse rearing conditions lead to white matter impairment of the ALIC.
We examined white matter integrity using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) on a 3T-MRI. Twenty-one adult male Bonnet macaques participated in this study: 12 were reared under adverse [variable foraging demand (VFD)] conditions whereas 9 were reared under normative conditions. We examined ALIC, posterior limb of the internal capsule (PLIC) and occipital white matter.
VFD rearing was associated with significant reductions in FA in the ALIC with no changes evident in the PLIC or occipital cortex white matter.
Adverse rearing in monkeys persistently impaired frontal white matter tract integrity, a novel substrate for understanding affective susceptibility.
Diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; white matter integrity; variable foraging demand