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1.  Multi-site studies of acoustic startle and prepulse inhibition in humans: Initial experience and methodological considerations based on studies by the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia 
Schizophrenia research  2007;92(1-3):237-251.
Startle and its inhibition by weak lead stimuli (“prepulse inhibition”: PPI) are studied to understand the neurobiology of information processing in patients and community comparison subjects (CCS). PPI has a strong genetic basis in infrahumans, and there is evidence for its heritability, stability and reliability in humans. PPI has gained increasing use as an endophenotype to identify vulnerability genes for brain disorders, including schizophrenia. Genetic studies now often employ multiple, geographically dispersed test sites to accommodate the need for large and complex study samples. Here, we assessed the feasibility of using PPI in multi-site studies.
Within a 7-site investigation with multiple measures, the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia conducted a methodological study of acoustic startle and PPI in CCS. Methods were manualized, videotaped and standardized across sites with intensive in-person training sessions. Equipment was acquired and programmed at the “PPI site” (UCSD), and stringent quality assurance (QA) procedures were used. Testing was completed on 196 CCS over 2.5 years, with 5 primary startle dependent measures: eyeblink startle magnitude, habituation, peak latency, latency facilitation and PPI.
Analyses identified significant variability across sites in some but not all primary measures, and determined factors both within the testing process and subject characteristics that influenced a number of test measures. QA procedures also identified non-standardized practices with respect to testing methods and procedural “drift”, which may be particularly relevant to multi-site studies using these measures.
With thorough oversight and QA procedures, measures of acoustic startle PPI can be acquired reliably across multiple testing sites. Nonetheless, even among sites with substantial expertise in utilizing psychophysiological measures, multi-site studies using startle and PPI as dependent measures require careful attention to methodological procedures.
PMCID: PMC2039885  PMID: 17346930
endophenotype; prepulse inhibition; schizophrenia; sex differences; startle
2.  Antisaccade performance in schizophrenia patients, their first-degree biological relatives, and community comparison subjects: Data from the COGS study 
Psychophysiology  2010;47(5):846-856.
The antisaccade task is a widely used technique to measure failure of inhibition, an important cause of cognitive and clinical abnormalities found in schizophrenia. Although antisaccade performance, which reflects the ability to inhibit prepotent responses, is a putative schizophrenia endophenotype, researchers have not consistently reported the expected differences between first-degree relatives and comparison groups. Schizophrenia participants(n=219) from the large Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS) sample (n=1078) demonstrated significant deficits on an overlap version of the antisaccade task compared to their first-degree relatives (n=443) and community comparison subjects (CCS; n=416). Although mean antisaccade performance of first-degree relatives was intermediate between schizophrenia participants and CCS, a linear mixed-effects model adjusting for group, site, age, and gender found no significant performance differences between the first-degree relatives and CCS. However, admixture analyses showed that two components best explained the distributions in all three groups, suggesting two distinct doses of an etiological factor. Given the significant heritability of antisaccade performance, the effects of a genetic polymorphism is one possible explanation of our results.
PMCID: PMC4176871  PMID: 20374545
Oculomotor; Endophenotype; Antisaccade; Schizophrenia; Family
3.  Sex Differences in Familiality Effects on Neurocognitive Performance in Schizophrenia 
Biological psychiatry  2013;73(10):976-984.
Numerous studies have documented that patients with schizophrenia show neurocognitive impairments, which are also heritable in schizophrenia families. In view of these findings, the current investigation tested the hypothesis that neurocognitive performance of schizophrenia probands can predict the neurocognitive performance of their unaffected family members.
Participants (n=1,967; schizophrenia=369; first-degree relatives=1,072; community comparison subjects=526) in the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS) were administered the Penn Computerized Neurocognitive Battery (CNB).
Consistent with prior work, probands showed significant neurocognitive impairment, and neurocognitive ability was significantly heritable, across domains. On average, unaffected relatives did not differ from community comparison subjects in their neurocognitive performance. However, in 6 of 7 domains, probands’ score predicted the performance of their unaffected siblings. Male, but not female, probands’ performance was predictive of their unaffected relatives (siblings and mothers) performance, most consistently in face memory and spatial processing.
Using a novel approach in which individual probands are paired with their respective unaffected relatives within each family, we found that male probands’ performance predicted both sister and brother performance, an effect that was most powerfully observed for face memory and spatial processing. Results suggest that the familial transmission of sexually dimorphic neurocognitive domains, in which a particular sex tends to show a performance advantage over the other, may not itself be sex specific in schizophrenia families.
PMCID: PMC3954126  PMID: 23395246
Schizophrenia; neurocognition; endophenotype; heritability; genetics; sex differences
4.  Genome-Wide Linkage Analyses of 12 Endophenotypes for Schizophrenia From the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia 
The American journal of psychiatry  2013;170(5):10.1176/appi.ajp.2012.12020186.
The Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia has undertaken a large multisite study to characterize 12 neurophysiological and neurocognitive endophenotypic measures as a step toward understanding the complex genetic basis of schizophrenia. The authors previously demonstrated the heritability of these endophenotypes; in the present study, genetic linkage was evaluated.
Each family consisted of a proband with schizophrenia, at least one unaffected sibling, and both parents. A total of 1,286 participants from 296 families were genotyped in two phases, and 1,004 individuals were also assessed for the endophenotypes. Linkage analyses of the 6,055 single-nucleotide polymorphisms that were successfully assayed, 5,760 of which were common to both phases, were conducted using both variance components and pedigree-wide regression methods.
Linkage analyses of the 12 endophenotypes collectively identified one region meeting genome-wide significance criteria, with a LOD (log of odds) score of 4.0 on chromosome 3p14 for the antisaccade task, and another region on 1p36 nearly meeting genome-wide significance, with a LOD score of 3.5 for emotion recognition. Chromosomal regions meeting genome-wide suggestive criteria with LOD scores >2.2 were identified for spatial processing (2p25 and 16q23), sensorimotor dexterity (2q24 and 2q32), prepulse inhibition (5p15), the California Verbal Learning Test (8q24), the degraded-stimulus Continuous Performance Test (10q26), face memory (10q26 and 12p12), and the Letter-Number Span (14q23).
Twelve regions meeting genome-wide significant and suggestive criteria for previously identified heritable, schizophrenia-related endophenotypes were observed, and several genes of potential neurobiological interest were identified. Replication and further genomic studies are needed to assess the biological significance of these results.
PMCID: PMC3878873  PMID: 23511790
5.  Analysis of 94 Candidate Genes and Twelve Endophenotypes for Schizophrenia from the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia 
The American journal of psychiatry  2011;168(9):930-946.
We have used a custom 1,536-SNP array to interrogate 94 functionally relevant candidate genes for schizophrenia and identify associations with 12 heritable neurophysiological and neurocognitive endophenotypes collected as part of the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS).
Variance-component association analyses of 534 genotyped subjects from 130 families were conducted using Merlin. A novel bootstrap Total Significance Test was also developed to overcome the limitations of existing genomic multiple testing methods and robustly demonstrate the presence of significant associations in the context of complex family data and possible population stratification effects.
Associations were observed for 46 genes of potential functional significance with 3 SNPs at p<10−4, 27 SNPs at p<10−3, and 147 SNPs at p<0.01. The bootstrap analyses confirmed that the 47 SNP-endophenotype combinations with the strongest evidence of association significantly exceeded (p=0.001) that expected by chance alone with 93% of these findings expected to be true. Many of the genes interact on a molecular level, and eight genes displayed evidence for pleiotropy (e.g., NRG1 and ERBB4), revealing associations with four or more endophenotypes. Our results collectively support a strong role for genes related to glutamate signaling in mediating schizophrenia susceptibility.
This study supports the use of relevant endophenotypes and the bootstrap Total Significance Test for the identification of genetic variation underlying the etiology of schizophrenia. In addition, the observation of extensive pleiotropy for some genes and singular associations for others in our data suggests alternative, independent pathways mediating pathogenesis in the “group of schizophrenias”.
PMCID: PMC3751972  PMID: 21498463
6.  Inhibition of the P50 Cerebral Evoked Response to Repeated Auditory Stimuli: Results from the Consortium on Genetics of Schizophrenia 
Schizophrenia research  2010;119(0):175-182.
Inhibition of the P50 evoked electroencephalographic response to the second of paired auditory stimuli has been frequently examined as a neurophysiological deficit in schizophrenia. The National Institute of Mental Health Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS) examined this endophenotype in a 7 center multi-site study. Recordings were analyzed from 181 probands with schizophrenia, 429 of their first degree relatives, and 333 community comparison control subjects. Most probands were being treated with second generation neuroleptic medications. Highly significant differences in P50 inhibition, measured as either the ratio of amplitudes or their difference in response to the two stimuli, were found between the probands and the community comparison sample. There were no differences between the COGS sites for these findings. For the ratio parameter, an admixture analysis indicated that nearly 40% of the relatives demonstrated deficiencies in P50 inhibition that are comparable to the deficit found in the probands. These results indicate that P50 auditory evoked potentials can be recorded across multiple sites and reliably demonstrate a physiological abnormality in schizophrenia. The appearance of the physiological abnormality in a substantial proportion of clinically unaffected first degree relatives is consistent with the hypothesis that deficits in cerebral inhibition may be a familial neurobiological risk factor for the illness.
PMCID: PMC3688282  PMID: 20382002
Schizophrenia; Evoked potentials auditory; Inhibition; Genetics
7.  Pergolide Treatment of Cognitive Deficits Associated with Schizotypal Personality Disorder: Continued Evidence of the Importance of the Dopamine System in the Schizophrenia Spectrum 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;35(6):1356-1362.
Cognitive deficits observed in schizophrenia are also frequently found in individuals with other schizophrenia spectrum disorders, such as schizotypal personality disorder (SPD). Dopamine appears to be a particularly important modulator of cognitive processes such as those impaired in schizophrenia spectrum disorders. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, we administered pergolide, a dopamine agonist targeting D1 and D2 receptors, to 25 participants with SPD and assessed the effect of pergolide treatment, as compared with placebo, on neuropsychological performance. We found that the pergolide group showed improvements in visual-spatial working memory, executive functioning, and verbal learning and memory. These results suggest that dopamine agonists may provide benefit for the cognitive abnormalities of schizophrenia spectrum disorders.
PMCID: PMC3055340  PMID: 20130535
schizotypal personality; schizotypy; schizophrenia spectrum; cognition; pergolide; dopamine; Schizophrenia/Antipsychotics; Dopamine; Cognition; Clinical Pharmacology/Trials; schizotypal personality; pergolide
8.  Abnormal Auditory N100 Amplitude: A Heritable Endophenotype in First-Degree Relatives of Schizophrenia Probands 
Biological psychiatry  2008;64(12):1051-1059.
N100 evoked potential amplitude and gating abnormalities have been widely observed in schizophrenia patients. However, previous studies have been inconclusive as to whether similar deficits are present in unaffected family members. The Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS) is a multi-site NIMH initiative examining neurocognitive and neurophysiological measures as endophenotypes for genetic studies of schizophrenia. We report initial results, from the COGS dataset, of auditory N100 amplitude and gating as candidate endophenotypes.
Evoked potential data were acquired from 142 schizophrenia probands, 373 unaffected 1st-degree relatives and 221 community comparison subjects (CCS), using an auditory paired-click stimulation paradigm. Amplitude of the N100 response to each click and the click2/click1 ratio were dependent variables. Heritability was estimated based on kinships, using Solar v.2.1.2. Group differences were examined after subjects were categorized as either “broad” or “narrow”, based on the presence (“broad”) or absence (“narrow”) of non-psychotic psychiatric co-morbidity.
Heritability estimates were .40 and .29 for click1 and click2 amplitudes and .22 for the ratio. “Broad” and “narrow” patients both had impaired click1 amplitudes. “Broad” relatives, but not “narrow” relatives, exhibited similar impairments. There were no group differences for either click2 amplitude or the gating ratio.
N100 amplitude is a heritable measure that is abnormal in patients and a subset of relatives for whom psychiatric co-morbidity may be a genetically associated phenotype. Auditory N100 gating, although heritable, is less viable as a schizophrenia endophenotype.
PMCID: PMC2653714  PMID: 18701089
schizophrenia; endophenotype; heritability; evoked potential; N100; gating
9.  Verbal Working Memory Impairments in Individuals with Schizophrenia and Their First-Degree Relatives: Findings From the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia 
Schizophrenia research  2008;103(1-3):218-228.
Working memory (WM) impairment is a promising candidate endophenotype for schizophrenia that could facilitate the identification of susceptibility genes for this disorder. The validity of this putative endophenotype was assessed by determining whether 149 probands with schizophrenia and 337 of their first-degree relatives demonstrated WM impairment as compared to 190 unaffected community comparison subjects. Subjects were participants in the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS) project, a seven-site research network that was established to investigate the genetic architecture of endophenotypes for schizophrenia. Participants received comprehensive clinical assessments and completed two verbal WM tasks, one requiring transient on-line storage and another requiring maintenance plus complex manipulation of information by reordering the stimuli. Schizophrenia probands performed worse than the other groups on both tasks, with larger deficits found for the more challenging reordering WM task. The probands’ relatives performed more poorly than community comparison subjects on both tasks, but the difference was significant only for the more challenging maintenance plus complex manipulation WM task. This WM impairment was not attributable to diagnoses of schizophrenia spectrum disorder, mood disorders, or substance use disorders in the relatives. In conjunction with evidence that WM abilities are substantially heritable, the current results support the validity and usefulness of verbal WM impairments in manipulation of information as endophenotypes for schizophrenia in large-scale genetic linkage and association studies.
PMCID: PMC2529172  PMID: 18406578
10.  The Consortium on the Genetics of Endophenotypes in Schizophrenia: Model Recruitment, Assessment, and Endophenotyping Methods for a Multisite Collaboration 
Schizophrenia Bulletin  2006;33(1):33-48.
Background: The Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS) is an ongoing, National Institute of Mental Health–funded, 7-site collaboration investigating the occurrence and genetic architecture of quantitative endophenotypes related to schizophrenia. The purpose of this article is to provide a description of the COGS structure and methods, including participant recruitment and assessment. Methods: The hypothesis-driven recruitment strategy ascertains families that include a proband with a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition diagnosis of schizophrenia, and at least one unaffected full sibling available for genotyping and endophenotyping, along with parents available for genotyping and (optional depending on age) endophenotyping. The family structure is selected to provide contrast in quantitative endophenotypic traits and thus to maximize the power of the planned genetic analyses. Probands are recruited from many sources including clinician referrals, local National Alliance for the Mentally Ill chapters, and advertising via the media. All participants undergo a standardized protocol that includes clinical characterization, a blood draw for genotyping, and endophenotype assessments (P50 suppression, prepulse inhibition, antisaccade performance, continuous performance tasks, letter-number span, verbal memory, and a computerized neurocognitive battery). Investigators participate in weekly teleconferences to coordinate and evaluate recruitment, clinical assessment, endophenotyping, and continuous quality control of data gathering and analyses. Data integrity is maintained through use of a highly quality-assured, centralized web-based database. Results: As of February 2006, 355 families have been enrolled and 688 participants have been endophenotyped, including schizophrenia probands (n = 154, M:F = 110:44), first-degree biological relatives (n = 343, M:F = 151:192), and community comparison subjects (n = 191, M:F = 81:110). Discussion: Successful multisite genetics collaborations must institute standardized methodological criteria for assessment and recruitment that are clearly defined, well communicated, and uniformly applied. In parallel, studies utilizing endophenotypes require strict adherence to criteria for cross-site data acquisition, equipment calibration and testing and software equivalence, and continuous quality assurance for many measures obtained across sites. This report describes methods and presents the structure of the COGS as a model of multisite endophenotype genetic studies. It also provides demographic information after the first 2 years of data collection on a sample for whom the behavioral data and genetics of endophenotype performance will be fully characterized in future articles. Some issues discussed in the reviews that follow reflect the challenges of evaluating endophenotypes in studies of the genetic architecture of endophenotypes in schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC2632302  PMID: 17035358
neurophysiology; neurocognitive; genes
13.  Tryptophan Hydroxylase 2 haplotype association with borderline personality disorder and aggression in a sample of patients with personality disorders and healthy controls 
Journal of psychiatric research  2010;44(15):1075-1081.
There is decreased serotonergic function in impulsive aggression and borderline personality disorder (BPD), and genetic association studies suggest a role of serotonergic genes in impulsive aggression and BPD. Only one study has analyzed the association between the tryptophan-hydroxylase 2 (TPH2) gene and BPD. A TPH2 “risk” haplotype has been described that is associated with anxiety, depression and suicidal behavior.
We assessed the relationship between the previously identified “risk” haplotype at the TPH2 locus and BPD diagnosis, impulsive aggression, affective lability, and suicidal/parasuicidal behaviors, in a well-characterized clinical sample of 103 healthy controls (HCs) and 251 patients with personality disorders (109 with BPD). A logistic regression including measures of depression, affective lability and aggression scores in predicting “risk” haplotype was conducted.
The prevalence of the “risk” haplotype was significantly higher in patients with BPD compared to HCs. Those with the “risk” haplotype have higher aggression and affect lability scores and more suicidal/parasuicidal behaviors than those without it. In the logistic regression model, affect lability was the only significant predictor and it correctly classified 83.1% of the subjects as “risk” or “non-risk” haplotype carriers.
We found an association between the previously described TPH2 “risk” haplotype and BPD diagnosis, affective lability, suicidal/parasuicidal behavior, and aggression scores.
PMCID: PMC2955771  PMID: 20451217
Borderline personality disorder; TPH2; suicidal behavior; affective instability; impulsive aggression
Biological psychiatry  2010;67(12):1154-1162.
Impulsive physical aggression is a common and problematic feature of many personality disorders. The serotonergic system is known to be involved in the pathophysiology of aggression, and multiple lines of evidence have implicated the 5-HT2A receptor (5-HT2AR). We sought to examine the role of the 5-HT2AR in impulsive aggression specifically in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), given that our own studies and an extensive literature indicate that serotonergic disturbances in the OFC are linked to aggression. We have previously hypothesized that increased 5-HT2AR function in the OFC is a state phenomenon which promotes impulsive aggression.
5-HT2AR availability was measured with positron emission tomography and the selective 5-HT2AR antagonist radioligand [11C]MDL100907 in two groups of impulsively aggressive personality disordered patients --14 with current physical aggression, and 15 without current physical aggression --and 25 healthy controls. Clinical ratings of various symptom dimensions were also obtained.
Orbitofrontal 5-HT2AR availability was greater in patients with current physical aggression compared to patients without current physical aggression and healthy controls; no differences in OFC 5-HT2AR availability were observed between patients without current physical aggression and healthy controls. No significant differences in 5-HT2AR availability were observed in other brain regions examined. Among both groups of impulsively aggressive personality disordered patients combined, OFC 5-HT2AR availability was correlated, specifically, with a state measure of impulsive aggression.
These findings are consistent with our previously described model in which impulsive aggression is related to dynamic changes in 5-HT2AR function in the OFC.
PMCID: PMC3091264  PMID: 20434136
Aggression; Personality Disorder; Intermittent Explosive Disorder; Serotonin; Positron Emission Tomography; Orbitofrontal Cortex
15.  The Neural Correlates of Anomalous Habituation to Negative Emotional Pictures in Borderline and Avoidant Personality Disorder Patients 
Extreme emotional reactivity is a defining feature of borderline personality disorder, yet the neural-behavioral mechanisms underlying this affective instability are poorly understood. One possible contributor would be diminished ability to engage the mechanism of emotional habituation. We tested this hypothesis by examining behavioral and neural correlates of habituation in borderline patients, healthy controls, and a psychopathological control group of avoidant personality disorder patients.
During fMRI scan acquisition, borderline patients, healthy controls and avoidant personality disorder patients viewed novel and repeated pictures, providing valence ratings at each presentation. Statistical parametric maps of the contrasts of activation during repeat versus novel negative picture viewing were compared between groups. Psychophysiological interaction analysis was employed to examine functional connectivity differences between groups.
Unlike healthy controls, neither borderline nor avoidant personality disorder participants showed increased activity in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex when viewing repeat versus novel pictures. This failure to increase dorsal anterior cingulate activity was associated with greater affective instability in borderline participants. In addition, borderline and avoidant participants showed smaller insula-amygdala connectivity increases than healthy participants and did not show habituation in ratings of the emotional intensity of the images as did healthy participants. Borderline patients differed from avoidant patients in insula-ventral anterior cingulate connectivity during habituation.
Borderline patients fail to habituate to negative pictures as do healthy participants and differ from both healthy controls and avoidant patients in neural activity during habituation. A failure to effectively engage emotional habituation processes may contribute to affective instability in borderline patients.
PMCID: PMC3947284  PMID: 24275960
borderline personality disorder; avoidant personality disorder; affective instability; fMRI; functional connectivity
16.  Dialectical behavior therapy alters emotion regulation and amygdala activity in patients with borderline personality disorder 
Siever and Davis’ (1991) psychobiological framework of borderline personality disorder (BPD) identifies affective instability (AI) as a core dimension characterized by prolonged and intense emotional reactivity. Recently, deficient amygdala habituation, defined as a change in response to repeated relative to novel unpleasant pictures within a session, has emerged as a biological correlate of AI in BPD. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), an evidence-based treatment, targets AI by teaching emotion-regulation skills. This study tested the hypothesis that BPD patients would exhibit decreased amygdala activation and improved habituation, as well as improved emotion regulation with standard 12-month DBT.
Event-related fMRI was obtained pre- and post-12-months of standard-DBT in unmedicated BPD patients. Healthy controls (HCs) were studied as a benchmark for normal amygdala activity and change over time (n = 11 per diagnostic-group). During each scan, participants viewed an intermixed series of unpleasant, neutral and pleasant pictures presented twice (novel, repeat). Change in emotion regulation was measured with the Difficulty in Emotion Regulation (DERS) scale.
fMRI results showed the predicted Group × Time interaction: compared with HCs, BPD patients exhibited decreased amygdala activation with treatment. This post-treatment amygdala reduction in BPD was observed for all three pictures types, but particularly marked in the left hemisphere and during repeated-emotional pictures. Emotion regulation measured with the DERS significantly improved with DBT in BPD patients. Improved amygdala habituation to repeated-unpleasant pictures in patients was associated with improved overall emotional regulation measured by the DERS (total score and emotion regulation strategy use subscale).
These findings have promising treatment implications and support the notion that DBT targets amygdala hyperactivity—part of the disturbed neural circuitry underlying emotional dysregulation in BPD. Future work includes examining how DBT-induced amygdala changes interact with frontal-lobe regions implicated in emotion regulation.
PMCID: PMC4263347  PMID: 25038629
Borderline personality disorder; Emotion regulation; Amygdala; Habituation; fMRI
18.  The Interpersonal Dimension of Borderline Personality Disorder: Toward a Neuropeptide Model 
Borderline personality disorder is characterized by affective instability, impulsivity, identity diffusion, and interpersonal dysfunction. Perceived rejection and loss often serve as triggers to impulsive, suicidal, and self-injurious behavior, affective reactivity, and angry outbursts, suggesting that the attachment and affiliative system may be implicated in the disorder. Neuropeptides, including the opioids, oxytocin, and vasopressin, serve a crucial role in the regulation of affiliative behaviors and thus may be altered in borderline personality disorder. While clinical data are limited, the authors propose alternative neuropeptide models of borderline personality disorder and review relevant preclinical research supporting the role of altered neuropeptide function in this disorder in the hope of stimulating more basic research and the development of new treatment approaches.
PMCID: PMC4176877  PMID: 19952075
19.  Context Processing in Schizotypal Personality Disorder: Evidence of Specificity of Impairment to the Schizophrenia Spectrum 
Journal of abnormal psychology  2008;117(2):342-354.
Working memory abnormalities, which are particularly pronounced on context processing tasks, appear relatively specific to schizophrenia spectrum illnesses compared with other psychotic disorders. However, the specificity of context processing deficits to schizotypal personality disorder (SPD), a prototype of schizophrenia, has not been studied. The authors administered 3 versions of the modified AX Continuous Performance Test and an N-back working memory test to 63 individuals with SPD and 25 with other personality disorders, as well as 42 healthy controls. For the AX Continuous Performance Test standard and degraded versions, there was a significant Trial Type × Delay × Group interaction, as SPDs made significantly more errors reflecting poor maintenance of context and fewer errors reflecting good maintenance of context. SPDs also demonstrated poor performance on the N-back, especially at the 2-back condition. Context processing errors and N-back accuracy scores were related to disorganization symptoms. These findings, which are quite similar to those previously reported in patients with schizophrenia, suggest that context processing deficits are specific to the schizophrenia spectrum and are not a reflection of overall psychopathology.
PMCID: PMC4176884  PMID: 18489210
schizotypal personality; context processing; cognition; schizophrenia spectrum; personality disorders
20.  Neurobiology of Aggression and Violence 
The American journal of psychiatry  2008;165(4):429-442.
Acts of violence account for an estimated 1.43 million deaths worldwide annually. While violence can occur in many contexts, individual acts of aggression account for the majority of instances. In some individuals, repetitive acts of aggression are grounded in an underlying neurobiological susceptibility that is just beginning to be understood. The failure of “top-down” control systems in the prefrontal cortex to modulate aggressive acts that are triggered by anger provoking stimuli appears to play an important role. An imbalance between prefrontal regulatory influences and hyper-responsivity of the amygdala and other limbic regions involved in affective evaluation are implicated. Insufficient serotonergic facilitation of “top-down” control, excessive catecholaminergic stimulation, and subcortical imbalances of glutamatergic/ gabaminergic systems as well as pathology in neuropeptide systems involved in the regulation of affiliative behavior may contribute to abnormalities in this circuitry. Thus, pharmacological interventions such as mood stabilizers, which dampen limbic irritability, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which may enhance “top-down” control, as well as psychosocial interventions to develop alternative coping skills and reinforce reflective delays may be therapeutic.
PMCID: PMC4176893  PMID: 18346997
21.  Neural Correlates of Emotion Processing in Borderline Personality Disorder 
Psychiatry research  2009;172(3):192-199.
Emotional instability is a hallmark feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD), yet its biological underpinnings are poorly understood. We employed functional MRI to compare patterns of regional brain activation in BPD patients and healthy volunteers as they process positive and negative social emotional stimuli. fMRI images were acquired while 19 BPD patients and 17 healthy controls (HC) viewed emotion-inducing pictures from the IAPS set. Activation data were analyzed with SPM5 ANCOVA models to derive the effects of diagnosis and stimulus type. BPD patients demonstrated greater differences in activation than controls, when viewing negative pictures compared to rest, in the amygdala, fusiform gyrus, primary visual areas, superior temporal gyrus (STG), and premotor areas, while healthy controls showed greater differences than BPD’s in the insula, middle temporal gyrus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BA46). When viewing positive pictures compared to rest, BPD patients showed greater differences in the STG, premotor cortex, and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. These findings suggest that BPD patients show greater amygdala activity and heightened activity of visual processing regions than HC’s, when processing negative social emotional pictures compared to rest. They activate neural networks in emotion processing that are phylogenetically older and more reflexive than healthy controls.
PMCID: PMC4153735  PMID: 19394205
Affective Instability; Emotion; fMRI; Social-Emotional Cues; Borderline Personality Disorder
22.  Platelet protein kinase C and brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in borderline personality disorder patients 
Psychiatry research  2012;199(2):92-97.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a prevalent and difficult to treat psychiatric condition characterized by abrupt mood swings, intense anger and depression, unstable interpersonal relationships, impulsive self-destructive behavior and a suicide rate of approximately 10%. Possible underlying molecular dysregulations in BPD have not been well explored. Protein kinase C (PKC) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) have both been implicated in affective disorders, but their role in BPD has not been examined. Platelets were isolated from blood obtained from 24 medication-free BPD patients and 18 healthy control subjects. PKC-α, phosphorylated-PKC-α (p-PKCα), PKC-β II, and BDNF were measured in platelet homogenates by immunoblotting. In the males, platelet BDNF and PKC-α levels were lower in patients than controls. p-PKC-α and PKC-βII were lower at trend levels. In the entire sample, platelet p-PKC α and PKC-α activity were lower, at a trend level, in patients compared to controls. This is the first report to our knowledge of PKC and BDNF activity in BPD and calls for replication. These findings are consistent with altered PKC and BDNF activity in a range of neuropsychiatric conditions including bipolar disorder, depression and suicide.
PMCID: PMC4128317  PMID: 22633012
PKC; BDNF; Neurotrophic Factors; Second Messengers; Personality Disorders; Borderline Personality Disorder
23.  Serotonin 2c receptor RNA editing in major depression and suicide 
mRNA for serotonin 2C receptor (5-HT2CR) undergoes editing which results in numerous isoforms. More highly edited isoforms exhibit decreased function. We recently found greater 5-HT2CR editing in suicide victims with prior bipolar disorder (BPD) or schizophrenia (SZ) compared with non-suicide patients and normal controls (NC). This study compares suicides and non-suicides with major depressive disorder (MDDSuic and MDDNoSuic) and non-suicide NC.
mRNA editing was assessed in prefrontal cortex of 24 MDDSuic, 21 MDDNoSuic, and 56 NC using next generation sequencing. mRNA expression of 5-HT2CR and editing enzymes (ADAR1-2) was assessed by real-time PCR.
Editing was lower in MDDNoSuic than in MDDSuic, which did not differ from NC. No differences in the 5-HT2CR or ADAR1 expression were detected. ADAR2 expression was higher in NC than in MDD subjects, but did not differ between MDDNoSuic and MDDSuic.
Our findings suggest the presence of two factors associated with 5-HT2CR editing. One factor, which probably stems from decreased ADAR2 expression, is linked to MDD and is associated with less editing. The other, seen also in our previous study of suicide in BP and SZ, is linked to suicide alone and is associated with more editing and, therefore, less receptor function.
PMCID: PMC4120662  PMID: 22404657
RNA editing; ADAR; serotonin receptor; major depressive disorder; suicide
24.  Functional Outcomes, Functional Capacity, and Cognitive Impairment in Schizotypal Personality Disorder 
Schizophrenia research  2013;144(1-3):146-150.
Individuals with schizotypal personality disorder (SPD) exhibit impaired cognitive functioning in a pattern similar to that found in schizophrenia; less clear is the extent to which these individuals also share schizophrenia patients’ impairments in functional capacity and real-world functioning.
We evaluated 46 SPD patients, as well as 38 individuals with avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) and 55 healthy controls (HC) on: cognitive functioning, real-world functioning (employment and residential status), and functional capacity (indexed by the UPSA, a performance-based skills assessment).
We found that individuals with SPD exhibited worse performance on both the cognitive battery and the UPSA than the other groups; they were also less likely to be employed and to be living independently. Additionally, cognitive and UPSA performance in the SPD group was intercorrelated to a degree comparable to what has been found in schizophrenia, and this relationship was not present in the AvPD group. Finally, real-world functioning was related to UPSA performance for both patient groups.
SPD patients exhibit impaired real-world functioning suggesting that these deficits extend across the schizophrenia spectrum. In addition, there is supportive evidence for the validity and importance of performance-based measures such as the UPSA to predict everyday outcomes across the schizophrenia spectrum.
PMCID: PMC3572293  PMID: 23375943
schizophrenia spectrum; cognition; functional outcome; performance-based assessments; schizotypal personality disorder
25.  Convergent Findings for Abnormalities of the NF-κB Signaling Pathway in Schizophrenia 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2012;38(3):533-539.
Neurons exhibit a constitutive level of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) signaling and this pathway plays a significant role in neurite outgrowth, activity-dependent plasticity, and cognitive function. Transcription factor analysis was performed in a microarray data set profiled in four different brain regions (n=54 comparison group; n=53 schizophrenia (SZ)). An independent postmortem cohort was used for gene expression (n=24 comparison group; n=22 SZ), protein abundance (n=8 comparison group; n=8 SZ), and NF-κB nuclear activity (n=10 comparison group; n=10 SZ) quantification. Expression quantitative trait locus analysis was performed using publicly available data. Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle reflex was tested in healthy individuals (n=690). Comparison of microarray data showed that NF-κB was among the transcription factors associated with the differential expression of genes in cases vs controls. NF-κB gene and protein levels and nuclear activation were significantly decreased in the superior temporal gyrus of patients with SZ. Upstream NF-κB genes related to translocation were significantly dysregulated in SZ. The gene expression levels of an NF-κB-associated importin (KPNA4: one of the proteins responsible for the translocation of NF-κB to the nucleus) was decreased in SZ and an SNP within the KPNA4 locus was associated with susceptibility to SZ, reduced KPNA4 expression levels and attenuated PPI of the startle reflex in healthy control subjects. These findings implicate abnormalities of the NF-κB signaling pathway in SZ and provide evidence for an additional possible mechanism affecting the translocation of NF-κB signaling to the nucleus.
PMCID: PMC3547205  PMID: 23132271
biological psychiatry; gene expression; human postmortem; neurogenetics; neurophysiology; prepulse inhibition; schizophrenia / antipsychotics; transcription factor; postmortem; mRNA; superior temporal gyrus; prepulse inhibition; importin; transcription factor

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