Shift toward prior knowledge confers a perceptual advantage in early psychosis and psychosis-prone healthy individuals
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 3 years ago
Many neuropsychiatric illnesses are associated with psychosis, i.e., hallucinations (perceptions in the absence of causative stimuli) and delusions (irrational, often bizarre beliefs). Current models of brain function view perception as a combination of two distinct sources of information: bottom-up sensory input and top-down influences from prior knowledge. This framework may explain hallucinations and delusions. Here, we characterized the balance between visual bottom-up and top-down processing in people with early psychosis (study 1) and in psychosis-prone, healthy individuals (study 2) to elucidate the mechanisms that might contribute to the emergence of psychotic experiences. Through a specialized mental-health service, we identified unmedicated individuals who experience early psychotic symptoms but fall below the threshold for a categorical diagnosis. We observed that, in early psychosis, there was a shift in information processing favoring prior knowledge over incoming sensory evidence. In the complementary study, we capitalized on subtle variations in perception and belief in the general population that exhibit graded similarity with psychotic experiences (schizotypy). We observed that the degree of psychosis proneness in healthy individuals, and, specifically, the presence of subtle perceptual alterations, is also associated with stronger reliance on prior knowledge. Although, in the current experimental studies, this shift conferred a performance benefit, under most natural viewing situations, it may provoke anomalous perceptual experiences. Overall, we show that early psychosis and psychosis proneness both entail a basic shift in visual information processing, favoring prior knowledge over incoming sensory evidence. The studies provide complementary insights to a mechanism by which psychotic symptoms may emerge.
Paranoia is receiving increasing attention in its own right, since it is a central experience of psychotic disorders and a marker of the health of a society. Paranoia is associated with use of the most commonly taken illicit drug, cannabis. The objective was to determine whether the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis-∆(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-causes paranoia and to use the drug as a probe to identify key cognitive mechanisms underlying paranoia. A randomized, placebo-controlled, between-groups test of the effects of intravenous THC was conducted. A total of 121 individuals with paranoid ideation were randomized to receive placebo, THC, or THC preceded by a cognitive awareness condition. Paranoia was assessed extensively via a real social situation, an immersive virtual reality experiment, and standard self-report and interviewer measures. Putative causal factors were assessed. Principal components analysis was used to create a composite paranoia score and composite causal variables to be tested in a mediation analysis. THC significantly increased paranoia, negative affect (anxiety, worry, depression, negative thoughts about the self), and a range of anomalous experiences, and reduced working memory capacity. The increase in negative affect and in anomalous experiences fully accounted for the increase in paranoia. Working memory changes did not lead to paranoia. Making participants aware of the effects of THC had little impact. In this largest study of intravenous THC, it was definitively demonstrated that the drug triggers paranoid thoughts in vulnerable individuals. The most likely mechanism of action causing paranoia was the generation of negative affect and anomalous experiences.
Hallucinations occur in both normal and clinical populations. Due to their unpredictability and complexity, the mechanisms underlying hallucinations remain largely untested. Here we show that visual hallucinations can be induced in the normal population by visual flicker, limited to an annulus that constricts content complexity to simple moving grey blobs, allowing objective mechanistic investigation. Hallucination strength peaked at ~11 Hz flicker and was dependent on cortical processing. Hallucinated motion speed increased with flicker rate, when mapped onto visual cortex it was independent of eccentricity, underwent local sensory adaptation and showed the same bistable and mnemonic dynamics as sensory perception. A neural field model with motion selectivity provides a mechanism for both hallucinations and perception. Our results demonstrate that hallucinations can be studied objectively, and they share multiple mechanisms with sensory perception. We anticipate that this assay will be critical to test theories of human consciousness and clinical models of hallucination.
To demonstrate the costs, outcomes and economic impact of early intervention in psychosis (EIP) services.
Recent decades have seen a surge of research interest in the phenomenon of healthy individuals who experience auditory verbal hallucinations, yet do not exhibit distress or need for care. The aims of the present systematic review are to provide a comprehensive overview of this research and examine how healthy voice-hearers may best be conceptualised in relation to the diagnostic versus ‘quasi-’ and ‘fully-dimensional’ continuum models of psychosis. A systematic literature search was conducted, resulting in a total of 398 article titles and abstracts that were scrutinised for appropriateness to the present objective. Seventy articles were identified for full-text analysis, of which 36 met criteria for inclusion. Subjective perceptual experience of voices, such as loudness or location (i.e., inside/outside head), is similar in clinical and non-clinical groups, although clinical voice-hearers have more frequent voices, more negative voice content, and an older age of onset. Groups differ significantly in beliefs about voices, control over voices, voice-related distress, and affective difficulties. Cognitive biases, reduced global functioning, and psychiatric symptoms such as delusions, appear more prevalent in healthy voice-hearers than in healthy controls, yet less than in clinical samples. Transition to mental health difficulties is increased in HVHs, yet only occurs in a minority and is predicted by previous mood problems and voice distress. Whilst healthy voice-hearers show similar brain activity during hallucinatory experiences to clinical voice-hearers, other neuroimaging measures, such as mismatch negativity, have been inconclusive. Risk factors such as familial and childhood trauma appear similar between clinical and non-clinical voice-hearers. Overall the results of the present systematic review support a continuum view rather than a diagnostic model, but cannot distinguish between ‘quasi’ and ‘fully’ dimensional models. Healthy voice-hearers may be a key resource in informing transdiagnostic approaches to research of auditory hallucinations.
BACKGROUND: Cognitive impairments are seen in first psychotic episode (FEP) patients. The neurobiological underpinnings that might underlie these changes remain unknown. The aim of this study is to investigate whether Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) levels are associated with cognitive impairment in FEP patients compared with healthy controls. METHODS: 45 FEP patients and 45 healthy controls matched by age, gender and educational level were selected from the Basque Country area of Spain. Plasma BDNF levels were assessed in healthy controls and in patients. A battery of cognitive tests was applied to both groups, with the patients being assessed at 6 months after the acute episode and only in those with a clinical response to treatment. RESULTS: Plasma BDNF levels were altered in patients compared with the control group. In FEP patients, we observed a positive association between BDNF levels at six months and five cognitive domains (learning ability, immediate and delayed memory, abstract thinking and processing speed) which persisted after controlling for medications prescribed, drug use, intelligence quotient (IQ) and negative symptoms. In the healthy control group, BDNF levels were not associated with cognitive test scores. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that BDNF is associated with the cognitive impairment seen after a FEP. Further investigations of the role of this neurotrophin in the symptoms associated with psychosis onset are warranted.
To determine whether refugees are at elevated risk of schizophrenia and other non-affective psychotic disorders, relative to non-refugee migrants from similar regions of origin and the Swedish-born population.
The present study examined the validity of psychometrically assessed positive and negative schizotypy in a study of 214 Spanish young adults using interview and questionnaire measures of impairment and psychopathology. Schizotypy provides a useful construct for understanding the etiology and development of schizophrenia and related disorders. Recent interview, laboratory, and experience sampling studies have supported the validity of psychometrically assessed positive and negative symptom dimensions. The present study expands on previous findings by examining the validity of these dimensions in a Spanish sample and employing a widely used interview measure of the schizophrenia prodrome. As hypothesized, the positive schizotypy dimension predicted CAARMS ultra high-risk or psychosis threshold status, and both dimensions uniquely predicted the presence of schizophrenia-spectrum personality disorders. Furthermore, positive schizotypy was associated with psychotic-like, paranoid, schizotypal, and mood symptoms, whereas negative schizotypy was associated with interview ratings of negative and schizoid symptoms. The schizotypy dimensions were also distinguished by their associations with self and other schemas. Positive schizotypy was associated with increased negative self and other schemas, whereas negative schizotypy was associated with decreased positive self and other schemas. The findings provide further construct validation of positive and negative schizotypy and support these dimensions as universal constructs.
Early intervention for potentially serious disorder is a fundamental feature of healthcare across the spectrum of physical illness. It has been a major factor in the reductions in morbidity and mortality that have been achieved in some of the non-communicable diseases, notably cancer and cardiovascular disease. Over the past two decades, an international collaborative effort has been mounted to build the evidence and the capacity for early intervention in the psychotic disorders, notably schizophrenia, where for so long deep pessimism had reigned. The origins and rapid development of early intervention in psychosis are described from a personal and Australian perspective. This uniquely evidence-informed, evidence-building and cost-effective reform provides a blueprint and launch pad to radically change the wider landscape of mental health care and dissolve many of the barriers that have constrained progress for so long.
Non-adherence to antipsychotic medication is commonly found in schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, thus forming a major obstacle to long-term maintenance treatment and contributing to high relapse rates. With limited evidence on the success of interventions in enhancing medication adherence, this controlled trial was designed to test and evaluate the effectiveness of an adherence therapy (AT) for outpatients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, based on a motivational interviewing approach over a six-month follow-up period.