Working memory impairment has been extensively studied in schizophrenia, but less is known about moderators of the impairment. Using the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia case-control study (COGS-2), we examined smoking status, types of antipsychotic medication, and history of substance as moderators for working memory impairment in schizophrenia.
From 5 sites, 1377 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective, depressed type and 1037 healthy controls completed the Letter-Number Span (LNS) Task. The LNS uses intermixed letter and digit stimuli that increase from 2 up to 8 stimuli. In the Forward condition, participants repeated the letters and numbers in the order they were presented. In the Reorder condition, participants repeated the digits in ascending order followed by letters in alphabetical order.
Schizophrenia patients performed more poorly than controls, with a larger difference on Reorder than Forward conditions. Deficits were associated with symptoms, functional capacity, and functional outcome. Patients who smoked showed larger impairment than nonsmoking patients, primarily due to deficits on the Reorder condition. The impairing association of smoking was more pronounced among patients taking first-generation than those taking second-generation antipsychotic medications. Correlations between working memory and community functioning were stronger for nonsmokers. History of substance use did not moderate working memory impairment.
Results confirm the working memory impairment in schizophrenia, and indicate smoking status as an important moderator for these deficits. The greater impairment in smokers may reflect added burden of smoking on general health or that patients with greater deficits are more likely to smoke.
schizophrenia; verbal working memory; letter-number span; moderators; smoking; antipsychotic medication
Attention/vigilance impairments are present in individuals with schizophrenia across psychotic and remitted states and in their first-degree relatives. An important question is whether deficits in attention/vigilance can be consistently and reliably measured across sites varying in many participant demographic, clinical, and functional characteristics, as needed for large-scale genetic studies of endophenotypes.
We examined Continuous Performance Test (CPT) data from Phase 2 of the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS-2), the largest-scale assessment of cognitive and psychophysiological endophenotypes relevant to schizophrenia. CPT data from 2251 participants from five sites were examined. A perceptual-load vigilance task (the Degraded Stimulus CPT or DS-CPT) and a memory-load vigilance task (CPT - Identical Pairs or CPT-IP) were utilized.
Schizophrenia patients performed more poorly than healthy comparison subjects (HCS) across sites, despite significant site differences in participant age, sex, education, and racial distribution. Patient-HCS differences in signal/noise discrimination (d’) in the DS-CPT varied significantly across sites, but averaged a medium effect size. CPT-IP performance showed large patient-HCS differences across sites. Poor CPT performance was independent of or weakly correlated with symptom severity, but was significantly associated with lower educational achievement and functional capacity. Current smoking was associated with poorer CPT-IP d’. Patients taking both atypical and typical antipsychotic medication performed more poorly than those on no or atypical antipsychotic medications, likely reflecting their greater severity of illness.
We conclude that CPT deficits in schizophrenia can be reliably detected across sites, are relatively independent of current symptom severity, and are related to functional capacity.
schizophrenia; endophenotype; attention; Continuous Performance Test; cognition; functional capacity; genetics
Reduced auditory P300 amplitude is a robust schizophrenia deficit
exhibiting the qualities of a viable genetic endophenotype. These include
heritability, test-retest reliability, and trait-like stability. Recent evidence
suggests that P300 may also serve as a predictive biomarker for transition to
psychosis during the schizophrenia prodrome. Historically, the utility of the
P300 has been limited by its clinical nonspecificity, cross-site measurement
variability, and required EEG expertise. The Consortium on the Genetics of
Schizophrenia (COGS-2) study provided an opportunity to examine the consistency
of the measure across multiple sites with varying degrees of EEG experience, and
to identify important modulating factors that contribute to measurement
variability. Auditory P300 was acquired from 649 control and 587 patients at 5
sites. An overall patient deficit was observed with effect size 0.62. Each site
independently observed a significant patient deficit, but site differences also
existed. In patients, site differences reflected clinical differences in
positive symptomatology and functional capacity. In controls, site differences
reflected differences in racial stratification, smoking and substance use
history. These factors differentially suppressed the P300 response, but only in
control subjects. This led to an attenuated patient-control difference among
smokers and among African Americans with history of substance use. These
findings indicate that the P300 can be adequately assessed quantitatively,
across sites, without substantial EEG expertise. Measurements are suitable for
both genetic endophenotype analyses and studies of psychosis risk and
conversion. However, careful attention must be given to selection of appropriate
comparison samples to avoid misleading false negative results.
P300; Schizophrenia; Endophenotype; Biomarker; Event-Related Potential
Mismatch negativity (MMN) and P3a are auditory event-related potential (ERP) components that show robust deficits in schizophrenia (SZ) patients and exhibit qualities of endophenotypes, including substantial heritability, test-retest reliability, and trait-like stability. These measures also fulfill criteria for use as cognition and function-linked biomarkers in outcome studies, but have not yet been validated for use in large-scale multi-site clinical studies. This study tested the feasibility of adding MMN and P3a to the ongoing Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS) study. The extent to which demographic, clinical, cognitive, and functional characteristics contribute to variability in MMN and P3a amplitudes was also examined. Participants (HCS n=824, SZ n=966) underwent testing at 5 geographically distributed COGS laboratories. Valid ERP data was obtained from 91% of HCS and 91% of SZ patients. Highly significant MMN (d=0.96) and P3a (d=0.93) amplitude reductions were observed in SZ patients, comparable in magnitude to those observed in single-lab studies with no appreciable differences across laboratories. Demographic characteristics accounted for 26% and 18% of the variance in MMN and P3a amplitudes, respectively. Significant relationships were observed among demographically-adjusted MMN and P3a measures and medication status as well as several clinical, cognitive, and functional characteristics of the SZ patients. This study demonstrates that MMN and P3a ERP biomarkers can be feasibly used in multi-site clinical studies. As with many clinical tests of brain function, demographic factors contribute to MMN and P3a amplitudes and should be carefully considered in future biomarker-informed clinical studies.
Neurocognitive deficits in schizophrenia (SZ) are established and the
Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS) investigated such
measures as endophenotypes in family-based (COGS-1) and case-control
(COGS-2) studies. By requiring family participation, family-based sampling
may result in samples that vary demographically and perform better on
The Penn computerized neurocognitive battery (CNB) evaluates accuracy
and speed of performance for several domains and was administered across
sites in COGS-1 and COGS-2. Most tests were included in both studies. COGS-1
included 328 patients with SZ and 497 healthy comparison subjects (HCS) and
COGS-2 included 1195 patients and 1009 HCS.
Demographically, COGS-1 participants were younger, more educated,
with more educated parents and higher estimated IQ compared to COGS-2
participants. After controlling for demographics, the two samples produced
very similar performance profiles compared to their respective controls. As
expected, performance was better and with smaller effect sizes compared to
controls in COGS-1 relative to COGS-2. Better performance was most
pronounced for spatial processing while emotion identification had large
effect sizes for both accuracy and speed in both samples. Performance was
positively correlated with functioning and negatively with negative and
positive symptoms in both samples, but correlations were attenuated in
COGS-2, especially with positive symptoms.
Patients ascertained through family-based design have more favorable
demographics and better performance on some neurocognitive domains. Thus,
studies that use case-control ascertainment may tap into populations with
more severe forms of illness that are exposed to less favorable factors
compared to those ascertained with family-based designs.
Neurocognition; schizophrenia; family-based; case-control; ascertainment
To evaluate the discrepancy of endophenotypic performance between probands with schizophrenia and unaffected siblings by paternal age at proband birth, a possible marker for de novo mutations.
Pairs of schizophrenia probands and unaffected siblings (N=220 pairs) were evaluated on 11 neuropsychological or neurophysiological endophenotypes previously identified as heritable. For each endophenotype, the sibling-minus-proband differences were transformed to standardized scores. Then for each pair, the average discrepancy was calculated from its standardized scores. We tested the hypothesis that the discrepancy is associated with paternal age, controlling for the number of endophenotypes shared between proband and his or her sibling, and proband age, which were both associated with paternal age.
The non-significant association between the discrepancy and paternal age was in the opposite direction from the hypothesis. Of the 11 endophenotypes only sensori-motor dexterity was significant, but in the opposite direction. Eight other endophenotypes were also in the opposite direction, but not significant.
The results did not support the hypothesized association of increased differences between sibling/proband pairs with greater paternal age. A possible explanation is that the identification of heritable endophenotypes was based on samples for which schizophrenia was attributable to inherited rather than de novo/non-inherited causes.
de novo mutations; copy number variants; genetic risk; familial schizophrenia; sporadic schizophrenia
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.
endophenotype; prepulse inhibition; schizophrenia; sex differences; startle
Twin and multiplex family studies have established significant heritability for schizophrenia (SZ), often summarized as 81%. The Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS-1) family study was designed to deconstruct the genetic architecture of SZ using neurocognitive and neurophysiological endophenotypes, for which heritability estimates ranged from 18% to 50% (mean = 30%). This study assessed the heritability of SZ in these families to determine whether there is a “heritability gap” between the diagnosis and related endophenotypes.
Nuclear families (N = 296) with a SZ proband, an unaffected sibling, and both parents (n = 1366 subjects; mean family size = 4.6) underwent comprehensive endophenotype and clinical characterization. The Family Interview for Genetic Studies was administered to all participants and used to obtain convergent psychiatric symptom information for additional first-degree relatives of interviewed subjects (N = 3304 subjects; mean family size = 11.2). Heritability estimates of psychotic disorders were computed for both nuclear and extended families.
The heritability of SZ was 31% and 44% for nuclear and extended families. The inclusion of bipolar disorder increased the heritability to 37% for the nuclear families. When major depression was added, heritability estimates dropped to 34% and 20% for nuclear and extended families, respectively.
Endophenotypes and psychotic disorders exhibit comparable levels of heritability in the COGS-1 family sample. The ascertainment of families with discordant sibpairs to increase endophenotypic contrast may underestimate diagnostic heritability relative to other studies. However, population-based studies also report significantly lower heritability estimates for SZ. Collectively, these findings support the importance of endophenotype-based strategies and the dimensional view of psychosis.
schizophrenia; psychosis; endophenotypes; cognition; biomarkers; heritability
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.
schizotypal personality; schizotypy; schizophrenia spectrum; cognition; pergolide; dopamine; Schizophrenia/Antipsychotics; Dopamine; Cognition; Clinical Pharmacology/Trials; schizotypal personality; pergolide
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.
Oculomotor; Endophenotype; Antisaccade; Schizophrenia; Family
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.
Schizophrenia; neurocognition; endophenotype; heritability; genetics; sex differences
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.
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”.
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.
Schizophrenia; Evoked potentials auditory; Inhibition; Genetics
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.
schizophrenia; endophenotype; heritability; evoked potential; N100; gating
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.
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.
neurophysiology; neurocognitive; genes
The study of schizotypal personality disorder (SPD) is important clinically, as it is understudied, challenging to treat, often under-recognized or misdiagnosed, and associated with significant functional impairment. SPD also represents an intermediate schizophrenia-spectrum phenotype, and therefore, can provide a better understanding of the genetics, pathogenesis, and treatment of related psychotic illnesses. In this review we discuss recent findings of SPD related to epidemiology and functional impairment; heritability and genetics; working memory and cognitive impairments; social-affective disturbances; and neurobiology. Additionally, we examine the challenges associated with treating patients with SPD, as well as clinical recommendations. Finally, we address future directions and areas in need of further exploration.
Schizotypal; schizophrenia; personality disorder; frontal lobe; temporal lobe; dopamine; working memory; cognition; social cognition; affect processing; magical thinking; perceptual aberration; suspiciousness; paranoia; social anhedonia
DSM-5 places schizophrenia on a continuum from severe, chronic schizophrenia to the attenuated schizophrenia-like traits of schizotypal personality disorder (SPD), the prototypic schizophrenia-related personality disorder. SPD shares common genetic and neurobiological substrates with schizophrenia, including information processing abnormalities, although they are less marked. This is the first study to directly compare the P50 evoked electroencephalographic response—a measure of sensory gating and a neurophysiological endophenotype—between schizophrenia-spectrum groups. Two hypotheses were tested: (1) Compared with healthy controls (HCs), schizophrenia patients show reduced P50 suppression and SPD patients resemble schizophrenia but exhibit less marked deficits; and (2) Deficient P50 suppression in SPD is associated with greater clinical symptom severity.
P50 was assessed in 32 schizophrenia-spectrum disorder patients (12 SPD, 20 schizophrenia patients) and 25 demographically-matched HCs. The standard conditioning (C)-testing (T) paradigm was used and P50 suppression was quantified using the T-C difference and the T/C ratio.
All P50 measures showed a linear, stepwise pattern with the SPD group intermediate between the HC and schizophrenia groups. Compared with HCs, both patient groups had lower conditioning and T-C difference values. Among the SPD group, greater clinical symptom severity was associated with greater conditioning-response amplitude deficits.
These findings: (1) are novel in showing that P50 deficits in SPD resemble those observed in schizophrenia, albeit less marked; (2) support the concept that the phenomenological link between SPD and schizophrenia lies in shared neurocognitive/neurophysiological pathologies; and (3) provide evidence that P50 is a neurophysiological endophenotype for schizophrenia-spectrum disorders.
schizotypal personality disorder; schizophrenia; event-related potential; evoked potential; P50; psychophysiology; sensory gating
Prior diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies examining schizotypal personality disorder (SPD) and schizophrenia, separately have shown that compared with healthy controls (HCs), patients show frontotemporal white matter (WM) abnormalities. This is the first DTI study to directly compare WM tract coherence with tractography and fractional anisotropy (FA) across the schizophrenia spectrum in a large sample of demographically matched HCs (n = 55), medication-naive SPD patients (n = 49), and unmedicated/never-medicated schizophrenia patients (n = 22) to determine whether (a) frontal-striatal-temporal WM tract abnormalities in schizophrenia are similar to, or distinct from those observed in SPD; and (b) WM tract abnormalities are associated with clinical symptom severity indicating a common underlying pathology across the spectrum. Compared with both the HC and SPD groups, schizophrenia patients showed WM abnormalities, as indexed by lower FA in the temporal lobe (inferior longitudinal fasciculus) and cingulum regions. SPD patients showed lower FA in the corpus callosum genu compared with the HC group, but this regional abnormality was more widespread in schizophrenia patients. Across the schizophrenia spectrum, greater WM disruptions were associated with greater symptom severity. Overall, frontal-striatal-temporal WM dysconnectivity is attenuated in SPD compared with schizophrenia patients and may mitigate the emergence of psychosis.
DTI; MRI; schizotypal personality disorder; schizophrenia; psychosis; white matter; genu; cingulum; inferior longitudinal fasciculus
Pharmacological enhancement of prefrontal D1 dopamine receptor function remains a promising therapeutic approach to ameliorate schizophrenia-spectrum working memory deficits, but has yet to be rigorously evaluated clinically. This proof-of-principle study sought to determine whether the active enantiomer of the selective and full D1 receptor agonist dihydrexidine (DAR-0100A) could attenuate working memory impairments in unmedicated patients with schizotypal personality disorder (SPD). We performed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of DAR-0100A (15 mg/150 ml of normal saline administered intravenously over 30 min) in medication-free patients with SPD (n=16) who met the criteria for cognitive impairment (ie, scoring below the 25th percentile on tests of working memory). We employed two measures of verbal working memory that are salient to schizophrenia-spectrum cognitive deficits, and that clinical data implicate as being associated with prefrontal D1 availability: (1) the Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT); and (2) the N-back test (ratio of 2-back:0-back scores). Study procedures occurred over four consecutive days, with working memory testing on Days 1 and 4, and DAR-0100A/placebo administration on Days 2–4. Treatment with DAR-0100A was associated with significantly improved PASAT performance relative to placebo, with a very large effect size (Cohen's d=1.14). Performance on the N-back ratio was also significantly improved; however, this effect rested on both a non-significant enhancement and diminution of 2-back and 0-back performance, respectively; therefore interpretation of this finding is more complicated. DAR-0100A was generally well tolerated, with no serious medical or psychiatric adverse events; common side effects were mild to moderate and transient, consisting mainly of sedation, lightheadedness, tachycardia, and hypotension; however, we were able to minimize these effects, without altering the dose, with supportive measures, eg, co-administered normal saline. Although preliminary, these findings lend further clinical support to the potential of D1 receptor agonists to treat schizophrenia-spectrum working memory impairments. These data suggest a need for further studies with larger group sizes, serum DAR-0100A levels, and a more comprehensive neuropsychological battery.
Behavioral habituation during repeated exposure to aversive stimuli is an adaptive process. However, the way in which changes in self-reported emotional experience are related to the neural mechanisms supporting habituation remains unclear. We probed these mechanisms by repeatedly presenting negative images to healthy adult participants and recording behavioral and neural responses using functional magnetic resonance imaging. We were particularly interested in investigating patterns of activity in insula, given its significant role in affective integration, and in amygdala, given its association with appraisal of aversive stimuli and its frequent coactivation with insula. We found significant habituation behaviorally along with decreases in amygdala, occipital cortex and ventral prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity with repeated presentation, whereas bilateral posterior insula, dorsolateral PFC and precuneus showed increased activation. Posterior insula activation during image presentation was correlated with greater negative affect ratings for novel presentations of negative images. Further, repeated negative image presentation was associated with increased functional connectivity between left posterior insula and amygdala, and increasing insula–amygdala functional connectivity was correlated with increasing behavioral habituation. These results suggest that habituation is subserved in part by insula–amygdala connectivity and involves a change in the activity of bottom-up affective networks.
habituation; emotion; functional connectivity; insula; amygdala