Aims and method In up to a quarter of patients, schizophrenia is resistant to standard treatments. We undertook a naturalistic study of 153 patients treated in the tertiary referral in-patient unit of the National Psychosis Service based at the Maudsley Hospital in London. A retrospective analysis of symptoms on admission and discharge was undertaken using the OPCRIT tool, along with preliminary economic modelling of potential costs related to changes in accommodation. Results In-patient treatment demonstrated statistically significant improvements in all symptom categories in patients already identified as having schizophrenia refractory to standard secondary care. The preliminary cost analysis showed net savings to referring authorities due to changes from pre- to post-discharge accommodation. Clinical implications Despite the enormous clinical, personal and societal burden of refractory psychotic illnesses, there is insufficient information on the outcomes of specialised tertiary-level care. Our pilot data support its utility in all domains measured.
Perceptions are inherently probabilistic; and can be potentially manipulated to induce illusory experience by the presentation of ambiguous or improbable evidence under selective (spatio-temporal) constraints. Accordingly, perception of the McGurk effect, by which individuals misperceive specific incongruent visual and auditory vocal cues, rests upon effective probabilistic inference. Here, we report findings from a behavioral investigation of illusory perception and related metacognitive evaluation during audiovisual integration, conducted in individuals with schizophrenia (n = 30) and control subjects (n = 24) matched in terms of age, sex, handedness and parental occupation. Controls additionally performed the task after an oral dose of amisulpride (400 mg). Individuals with schizophrenia were observed to exhibit illusory perception less frequently than controls, despite non-significant differences in perceptual performance during control conditions. Furthermore, older individuals with schizophrenia exhibited reduced rates of illusory perception. Subsequent analysis revealed a robust inverse relationship between illness chronicity and the illusory perception rate in this group. Controls demonstrated non-significant modulation of perception by amisulpride; amisulpride was, however, found to elicit increases in subjective confidence in perceptual performance. Overall, these findings are consistent with the idea that impairments in probabilistic inference are exhibited in schizophrenia and exacerbated by illness chronicity. The latter suggests that associated processes are a potentially worthwhile target for therapeutic intervention.
Neurodevelopmental processes are widely believed to underlie schizophrenia. Analysis of brain texture from conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect disturbance in brain cytoarchitecture. We tested the hypothesis that patients with schizophrenia manifest quantitative differences in brain texture that, alongside discrete volumetric changes, may serve as an endophenotypic biomarker. Texture analysis (TA) of grey matter distribution and voxel-based morphometry (VBM) of regional brain volumes were applied to MRI scans of 27 patients with schizophrenia and 24 controls. Texture parameters (uniformity and entropy) were also used as covariates in VBM analyses to test for correspondence with regional brain volume. Linear discriminant analysis tested if texture and volumetric data predicted diagnostic group membership (schizophrenia or control). We found that uniformity and entropy of grey matter differed significantly between individuals with schizophrenia and controls at the fine spatial scale (filter width below 2mm). Within the schizophrenia group, these texture parameters correlated with volumes of the left hippocampus, right amygdala and cerebellum. The best predictor of diagnostic group membership was the combination of fine texture heterogeneity and left hippocampal size. This study highlights the presence of distributed grey-matter abnormalities in schizophrenia, and their relation to focal structural abnormality of the hippocampus. The conjunction of these features has potential as a neuroimaging endophenotype of schizophrenia.
Catecholamine-0-methyl-transferase (COMT) gene variation effects on prefrontal blood oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) activation are robust; however, despite observations that COMT is estrogenically catabolized, sex differences in its prefrontal repercussions remain unclear. Here, in a large sample of healthy adolescents stratified by sex and Val(158)Met genotype (n=1133), we examine BOLD responses during performance of the stop-signal task in right-hemispheric prefrontal regions fundamental to inhibitory control. A significant sex-by-genotype interaction was observed in pre-SMA during successful-inhibition trials and in both pre-SMA and inferior frontal cortex during failed-inhibition trials with Val homozygotes displaying elevated activation compared with other genotypes in males but not in females. BOLD activation in the same regions significantly mediated the relationship between COMT genotype and inhibitory proficiency as indexed by stop-signal reaction time in males alone. These sexually dimorphic effects of COMT on inhibitory brain activation have important implications for our understanding of the contrasting patterns of prefrontally governed psychopathology observed in males and females.
The burden of depressive disorders and the frequent inadequacy of their current pharmacological treatments are well established. The anaesthetic and hallucinogenic drug ketamine has provoked much interest over the past decade or so as an extremely rapidly acting antidepressant that does not modify 'classical' monoaminergic receptors. Current evidence has shown several ways through which it might exert therapeutic antidepressant actions: blockade of glutamatergic NMDA receptors and relative upregulation of ?-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) subtypes may alter cortical connectivity patterns; through intracellular changes in protein expression, including the proteins mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF); and alteration of intracellular signalling cascades. The clinical evidence demonstrates rapid improvements in mood and suicidal thinking in most participants, although study numbers have generally been small and many trials are unblinded and methodologically weak. There is a small body of work to suggest ketamine might also augment electroconvulsive therapy and potentially have a role as a surgical anaesthetic in depressed patients. A major problem is that the effects of ketamine appear temporary, disappearing after days to weeks (although longer benefits have been sustained in some), and attempts to circumvent this through pharmacological augmentation have been disappointing thus far. These exciting data are providing new insights into neurobiological models of depression, and potentially opening up a new class of antidepressants, but there are significant practical and ethical issues about any future mainstream clinical role it might have.
Amphetamine sensitisation (AS) is an established animal model of the hypersensitivity to psychostimulants seen in patients with schizophrenia. AS also models the dysregulation of mesolimbic dopamine signalling which has been implicated in the development of psychotic symptoms. Recent data suggest that the enhanced excitability of mesolimbic dopamine neurons in AS is driven by a hyperactivity of hippocampal (subiculum) neurons, consistent with a strong association between hippocampal dysfunction and schizophrenia. While AS can be modelled in human volunteers, its functional consequences on dopaminoceptive brain regions (i.e. striatum and hippocampus) remains unclear. Here we describe the effects of a sensitising dosage pattern of dextroamphetamine on the neural correlates of motor sequence learning in healthy volunteers, within a randomised, double-blind, parallel-groups design. Behaviourally, sensitisation was characterised by enhanced subjective responses to amphetamine but did not change performance (i.e. learning rate) during an explicit sequence learning task. In contrast, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measurements showed that repeated intermittent amphetamine exposure was associated with increased blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) signal within the medial temporal lobe (MTL) (subiculum/entorhinal cortex) and midbrain, in the vicinity of the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA) during sequence encoding. Importantly, MTL hyperactivity correlated with the sensitisation of amphetamine-induced attentiveness. The MTL-midbrain hyperactivity reported here mirrors observations in sensitised rodents and is consistent with contemporary models of schizophrenia and behavioural sensitisation. These findings of meso-hippocampal hyperactivity during AS thus link pathophysiological concepts of dopamine dysregulation to cognitive models of psychosis.
Forward models predict the sensory consequences of planned actions and permit discrimination of self- and non-self-elicited sensation; their impairment in schizophrenia is implied by an abnormality in behavioral force-matching and the flawed agency judgments characteristic of positive symptoms, including auditory hallucinations and delusions of control.
Dysregulation of mesolimbic dopamine transmission is implicated in a number of psychiatric illnesses characterised by disruption of reward processing and goal-directed behaviour, including schizophrenia, drug addiction and impulse control disorders associated with chronic use of dopamine agonists. Amphetamine sensitization (AS) has been proposed to model the development of this aberrant dopamine signalling and the subsequent dysregulation of incentive motivational processes. However, in humans the effects of AS on the dopamine-sensitive neural circuitry associated with reward processing remains unclear. Here we describe the effects of acute amphetamine administration, following a sensitising dosage regime, on blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal in dopaminoceptive brain regions during a rewarded gambling task performed by healthy volunteers. Using a randomised, double-blind, parallel-groups design, we found clear evidence for sensitization to the subjective effects of the drug, while rewarded reaction times were unchanged. Repeated amphetamine exposure was associated with reduced dorsal striatal BOLD signal during decision making, but enhanced ventromedial caudate activity during reward anticipation. The amygdala BOLD response to reward outcomes was blunted following repeated amphetamine exposure. Positive correlations between subjective sensitization and changes in anticipation- and outcome-related BOLD signal were seen for the caudate nucleus and amygdala, respectively. These data show for the first time in humans that AS changes the functional impact of acute stimulant exposure on the processing of reward-related information within dopaminoceptive regions. Our findings accord with pathophysiological models which implicate aberrant dopaminergic modulation of striatal and amygdala activity in psychosis and drug-related compulsive disorders.
Effective estimation of the salience of environmental stimuli underlies adaptive behavior, while related aberrance is believed to undermine rational thought processes in schizophrenia. A network including bilateral frontoinsular cortex (FIC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) has been observed to respond to salient stimuli using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). To test the hypothesis that activity in this salience network (SN) is less discriminately modulated by contextually-relevant stimuli in schizophrenia than in healthy individuals, fMRI data were collected in 20 individuals with schizophrenia and 13 matched controls during performance of a modified monetary incentive delay (MID) task. After quantitatively identifying spatial components representative of the FIC and dACC features of the SN, two principal analyses were conducted. In the first, modulation of SN activity by salience was assessed by measuring response to trial outcome. First-level general linear models were applied to individual-specific time-courses of SN activity identified using spatial independent component analysis (ICA). This analysis revealed a significant salience-by-performance-by-group interaction on the best-fit FIC components activity at trial outcome, whereby healthy individuals but not individuals with schizophrenia exhibited greater distinction between the response to hits and misses in high salience trials than in low salience trials. The second analysis aimed to ascertain whether SN component amplitude differed between the study groups over the duration of the experiment. Independent-samples T-tests on back-projected, percent-signal-change scaled SN component images importantly showed that the groups did not differ in the overall amplitude of SN expression over the entire dataset. These findings of dysregulated but not decreased SN activity in schizophrenia provide physiological support for mechanistic conceptual frameworks of delusional thought formation.
Compared to unaffected observers patients with schizophrenia (SZ) show characteristic differences in visual perception, including a reduced susceptibility to the influence of context on judgments of contrast - a manifestation of weaker surround suppression (SS). To examine the generality of this phenomenon we measured the ability of 24 individuals with SZ to judge the luminance, contrast, orientation, and size of targets embedded in contextual surrounds that would typically influence the targets appearance. Individuals with SZ demonstrated weaker SS compared to matched controls for stimuli defined by contrast or size, but not for those defined by luminance or orientation. As perceived luminance is thought to be regulated at the earliest stages of visual processing our findings are consistent with a suppression deficit that is predominantly cortical in origin. In addition, we propose that preserved orientation SS in SZ may reflect the sparing of broadly tuned mechanisms of suppression. We attempt to reconcile these data with findings from previous studies.
Detection of visual contours (strings of small oriented elements) is markedly poor in schizophrenia. This has previously been attributed to an inability to group local information across space into a global percept. Here, we show that this failure actually originates from a combination of poor encoding of local orientation and abnormal processing of visual context.
White matter alterations, leukoaraiosis (LA) on structural MRI, are associated with cognitive deficits and increased risk of dementia. LA may also impact on subjective memory complaints in otherwise healthy older adults. Little is known about the interplay between LA memory complaints and cognition. We investigated cognitive phenotypes associated with LA in 42 non-demented older adults categorized as having subjective cognitive complaints with no objective cognitive impairment-the subjective cognitive impairment group (SCI; n = 12), amnesic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI; n = 20), or healthy controls (HC; n = 11). We measured LA severity on MRI with a 40-point visual rating scale. Controlling for age and Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score, analyses revealed multiple between-group differences. Follow-up linear regression models investigating the underlying contributors to each clinic groups cognitive profile indicated that LA contributed to learning slope variance (after accounting for age and MMSE) but only for the SCI group. Although the SCI group showed a significantly steeper learning slope when compared to HC and aMCI, increasing LA severity negatively impacted this groups rate of learning. This, in conjunction with the significant contribution of age on SCI learning slope performance variance suggests that greater LA burden at a younger age may contribute to subtle changes in learning for individuals with subjective cognitive complaints.
This study aims to identify the neural substrate involved in prosodic pitch processing. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to test the premise that prosody pitch processing is primarily subserved by the right cortical hemisphere.Two experimental paradigms were used, firstly pairs of spoken sentences, where the only variation was a single internal phrase pitch change, and secondly, a matched condition utilizing pitch changes within analogous tone-sequence phrases. This removed the potential confounder of lexical evaluation. fMRI images were obtained using these paradigms.
Functional neuroimaging supports the hypothesis that auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) in schizophrenia result from altered functional connectivity between perisylvian language regions, although the extent to which AVH are also associated with an altered tract anatomy is less clear.
Violent content in video games evokes many concerns but there is little research concerning its rewarding aspects. It was demonstrated that playing a video game leads to striatal dopamine release. It is unclear, however, which aspects of the game cause this reward system activation and if violent content contributes to it. We combined functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) with individual affect measures to address the neuronal correlates of violence in a video game.
Recent work suggests that the amphetamine sensitization model of schizophrenia can safely be induced in healthy volunteers and is associated both with behavioral and dopaminergic hypersensitivity to amphetamine. However, the effects of a sensitization on brain function remain unclear.
Behavioral and electrophysiological data indicate compromised stimulus suppression in schizophrenia. The physiological basis of this effect and its contributions to the etiology of the disease are poorly understood. We examined neural and metabolic measures of P50 suppression in 12 patients with schizophrenia and controls. First, whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) assessed amplitudes of left- and right-hemispheric evoked responses and induced oscillations. Secondly, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measured the hemodynamic responses to pairs of beeps with a short interval (500ms) as compared with those with a long interval (1500ms). The suppression of alpha power (8-13Hz) time-locked to the stimuli was negatively correlated with the suppression of evoked components and the hemodynamic measures. Remarkably, the suppression of alpha power was reduced in the patients already prior to stimulus onset. Conceivably, alpha oscillations play a central role in stimulus adaptation of neuronal networks and reflect an active mechanism for sensory suppression. The reduced stimulus suppression in schizophrenia seems to be in part due to impaired generation of alpha oscillations in the auditory cortex, resulting in higher metabolic demand as detected by fMRI. Delayed recovery of alpha rhythm may reflect an impaired gating function and contribute to sensory and cognitive deficits in schizophrenia.
Social and financial considerations are often integrated when real life decisions are made, and recent studies have provided evidence that similar brain networks are engaged when either social or financial information is integrated. Other studies, however, have suggested that the neuropeptide oxytocin can specifically affect social behaviors, which would suggest separable mechanisms at the pharmacological level. Thus, we examined the hypothesis that oxytocin would specifically affect social and not financial information in a decision making task, in which participants learned which of the two faces, one smiling and the other angry or sad, was most often being rewarded. We found that oxytocin specifically decreased aversion to angry faces, without affecting integration of positive or negative financial feedback or choices related to happy vs sad faces.
Schizophrenia is associated with interpersonal difficulties related to impairments in the processing of facial emotional expressions. The aim of the present study was to identify brain regions associated with reality distortion syndrome reduction in a group of patients with schizophrenia during processing of emotionally salient stimuli. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure cerebral blood oxygenation changes during an implicit emotional task in 11 patients with schizophrenia, who were scanned twice with an interval of 6-8 weeks. We found that reality distortion syndrome reduction was associated with increases in the activation of the affective division of the anterior cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortices. Our findings may indicate that changes in the activation of these regions during processing of emotionally salient stimuli may represent neural markers of patients symptomatic improvement.
Dysconnectivity theories of schizophrenia would suggest that the connectivity of the cerebellum is impaired and that the impairment may be restricted to certain tracts. Attempts to examine the structural connectivity of the cerebellum using diffusion tensor imaging have yielded conflicting results. However, previous studies have employed region-of-interest approaches or have used small or unmatched samples, with a consequent risk of type II error.
Auditory verbal hallucinations in schizophrenia have been linked to defective monitoring of ones own verbal thoughts. Previous studies have shown that patients with auditory verbal hallucinations show attenuated activation of brain regions involved with auditory processing during the monitoring of inner speech. However, there are no functional magnetic resonance imaging studies explicitly comparing the perception of external speech with internal speech in the same patients with schizophrenia. The present study investigated the functional neuroanatomy of inner and external speech in both patients with schizophrenia and healthy control subjects.
This study examined brain activation during a cognitive inhibition task in patients with schizophrenia following changes in their positive symptoms. A Stroop task was used during functional magnetic resonance imaging in 11 patients with schizophrenia (patient group) and 9 healthy volunteers (control group). At baseline, the patient group showed significantly attenuated activation within the anterior cingulate gyrus, left pre-/postcentral gyrus and inferior frontal junction. At follow-up, there was a significant increase in activation in the left inferior frontal junction associated with a decrease in positive symptoms, suggesting this region plays a role in the development of these symptoms.
Subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) has been proposed as a clinical stage which may precede mild cognitive impairment in the clinical continuum of AD, and is characterised by the presence of subjective memory complaints in the absence of objective cognitive deficits. Specific memory-related brain activation differences have been reported in mild cognitive impairment and in cognitively normal individuals at known genetic risk of AD; our objective was to determine whether similar differences are present in people with SCI.
Diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging studies in schizophrenia to date have been largely inconsistent. This may reflect variation in methodology, and the use of small samples with differing illness duration and medication exposure.
Several studies have described poorer performance in executive-type tasks in individuals who were born very preterm compared to controls. As there is evidence that high-order executive functions may be underpinned by neuronal activity in frontal-striatal circuits, we investigated with functional MRI a group of young adults who were born very preterm (n=28, gestational age <33 weeks) and controls (n=26) in order to detect possible alterations in brain activation during completion of a letter fluency task with differential cognitive loading ("easy" and "hard" letter trials). Structural MRI data were also collected to clarify whether any functional changes were associated with structural brain volume changes. Group membership, level of task difficulty and gestational age had significant effects on brain activation. In the absence of significant between-group differences in task performance, during "easy" letter trials, very preterm-born individuals showed attenuated activation in anterior cingulate gyrus, right caudate nucleus and left inferior frontal gyrus compared to controls. During "hard" letter trials, very preterm-born individuals showed both decreased and increased BOLD signal compared to controls, in left middle frontal and anterior cingulate gyrus, respectively. BOLD signal in caudate nucleus and anterior cingulate gyrus, in regions with peaks close to areas where between-group differences were observed, was linearly associated with gestational age. Analysis of structural MRI data showed altered grey matter distribution in the preterm-born group compared to controls. However, fMRI results were only partly explained by structural changes, and may reflect processes of functional plasticity for the successful completion of executive-type operations.
Psychophysical evidence suggests that sensations arising from our own movements are diminished when predicted by motor forward models and that these models may also encode the timing and intensity of movement. Here we report a functional magnetic resonance imaging study in which the effects on sensation of varying the occurrence, timing and force of movements were measured. We observed that tactile-related activity in a region of secondary somatosensory cortex is reduced when sensation is associated with movement and further that this reduction is maximal when movement and sensation occur synchronously. Motor force is not represented in the degree of attenuation but rather in the magnitude of this regions response. These findings provide neurophysiological correlates of previously-observed behavioural forward-model phenomena, and advocate the adopted approach for the study of clinical conditions in which forward-model deficits have been posited to play a crucial role.
Sexual dimorphism in human brain structure is well recognised, but little is known about gender differences in white matter microstructure. We used diffusion tensor imaging to explore differences in fractional anisotropy (FA), an index of microstructural integrity.
Traditionally, studies investigating the functional implications of age-related structural brain alterations have focused on higher cognitive processes; by increasing stimulus load, these studies assess behavioral and neurophysiological performance. In order to understand age-related changes in these higher cognitive processes, it is crucial to examine changes in visual and auditory processes that are the gateways to higher cognitive functions. This study provides evidence for age-related functional decline in visual and auditory processing, and regional alterations in functional brain processing, using non-invasive neuroimaging.
The oligodendrocyte lineage transcription factor 2 (OLIG2) regulates the genesis of oligodendrocytes, the brain cells responsible for axonal myelination. Although it has been associated with psychiatric and neurological disorders, the impact of this gene on white matter integrity has never been investigated in humans. Using diffusion tensor imaging, we examined the effect of a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs1059004) in OLIG2 previously associated with reduced gene expression, and with psychiatric disorders on fractional anisotropy in 78 healthy subjects. We found that the risk allele (A) was associated with reduced white matter integrity in the corona radiata bilaterally. This is consistent with evidence that it is a schizophrenia susceptibility gene, and suggests that it may confer increased risk through an effect on neuroanatomical connectivity.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been shown to have clinically beneficial effects in altering the perception of auditory hallucinations (AH) in patients with schizophrenia. However, the mode of action is not clear. Recent neuroimaging findings indicate that rTMS has the potential to induce not only local effects but also changes in remote, functionally connected brain regions. Frontotemporal dysconnectivity has been proposed as a mechanism leading to psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia. The current study examines functional connectivity between temporal and frontal brain regions after rTMS and the implications for AH in schizophrenia.
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