Journal: Schizophrenia bulletin
Schizophrenia has historically been considered to be a deteriorating disease, a view reinforced by recent MRI findings of progressive brain tissue loss over the early years of illness. On the other hand, the notion that recovery from schizophrenia is possible is increasingly embraced by consumer and family groups. This review critically examines the evidence from longitudinal studies of (1) clinical outcomes, (2) MRI brain volumes, and (3) cognitive functioning. First, the evidence shows that although approximately 25% of people with schizophrenia have a poor long-term outcome, few of these show the incremental loss of function that is characteristic of neurodegenerative illnesses. Second, MRI studies demonstrate subtle developmental abnormalities at first onset of psychosis and then further decreases in brain tissue volumes; however, these latter decreases are explicable by the effects of antipsychotic medication, substance abuse, and other secondary factors. Third, while patients do show cognitive deficits compared with controls, cognitive functioning does not appear to deteriorate over time. The majority of people with schizophrenia have the potential to achieve long-term remission and functional recovery. The fact that some experience deterioration in functioning over time may reflect poor access, or adherence, to treatment, the effects of concurrent conditions, and social and financial impoverishment. Mental health professionals need to join with patients and their families in understanding that schizophrenia is not a malignant disease that inevitably deteriorates over time but rather one from which most people can achieve a substantial degree of recovery.
A number of studies have explored hallucinations as complex experiences involving interactions between psychological, biological, and environmental factors and mechanisms. Nevertheless, relatively little attention has focused on the role of culture in shaping hallucinations. This article reviews the published research, drawing on the expertise of both anthropologists and psychologists. We argue that the extant body of work suggests that culture does indeed have a significant impact on the experience, understanding, and labeling of hallucinations and that there may be important theoretical and clinical consequences of that observation. We find that culture can affect what is identified as a hallucination, that there are different patterns of hallucination among the clinical and nonclinical populations, that hallucinations are often culturally meaningful, that hallucinations occur at different rates in different settings; that culture affects the meaning and characteristics of hallucinations associated with psychosis, and that the cultural variations of psychotic hallucinations may have implications for the clinical outcome of those who struggle with psychosis. We conclude that a clinician should never assume that the mere report of what seems to be a hallucination is necessarily a symptom of pathology and that the patient’s cultural background needs to be taken into account when assessing and treating hallucinations.
Little is known about the impact of urbanicity, adverse neighborhood conditions and violent crime victimization on the emergence of adolescent psychotic experiences.
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.
A barrier to preventative treatments for psychosis is the absence of accurate identification of persons at highest risk. A blood test that could substantially increase diagnostic accuracy would enhance development of psychosis prevention interventions.
Increased brain levels of the tryptophan metabolite kynurenic acid (KYNA) have been linked to cognitive dysfunctions in schizophrenia and other psychiatric diseases. In the rat, local inhibition of kynurenine aminotransferase II (KAT II), the enzyme responsible for the neosynthesis of readily mobilizable KYNA in the brain, leads to a prompt reduction in extracellular KYNA levels, and secondarily induces an increase in extracellular glutamate, dopamine, and acetylcholine levels in several brain areas. Using microdialysis in unanesthetized, adult rats, we now show that the novel, systemically active KAT II inhibitor BFF-816, applied orally at 30mg/kg in all experiments, mimics the effects of local enzyme inhibition. No tolerance was seen when animals were treated daily for 5 consecutive days. Behaviorally, daily injections of BFF-816 significantly decreased escape latency in the Morris water maze, indicating improved performance in spatial and contextual memory. Thus, systemically applied BFF-816 constitutes an excellent tool for studying the neurobiology of KYNA and, in particular, for investigating the mechanisms linking KAT II inhibition to changes in glutamatergic, dopaminergic, and cholinergic function in brain physiology and pathology.
Sleep disturbance is known to be associated with psychosis, but sleep disorders (eg, insomnia, nightmare disorder, sleep apnea) have rarely been investigated. We aimed to provide the first detailed assessment of sleep disorders and their correlates in patients with early psychosis. Sixty outpatients aged between 18 and 30 with nonaffective psychosis were assessed for sleep disorder presence, severity, and treatment using a structured diagnostic interview, sleep diaries, and actigraphy. Psychotic experiences, mood, and psychological wellbeing were also measured. Forty-eight patients (80%) had at least one sleep disorder, with insomnia and nightmare disorder being the most common. Comorbidity of sleep disorders within this group was high, with an average of 3.3 sleep disorders per patient. Over half of the sleep disorders had been discussed with a clinician but almost three-quarters had received no treatment. Treatment according to clinical guidelines was rare, occurring in only 8% of cases (n = 13). Sleep disorders were significantly associated with increased psychotic experiences, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and lower quality of life. Sleep disorders are very common in patients with psychosis, may have wide-ranging negative effects, and merit routine assessment and treatment in psychiatric practice.
Cognitive deficits are pervasive among people with schizophrenia and treatment options are limited. There has been an increased interest in the neurocognitive benefits of exercise, but a comprehensive evaluation of studies to date is lacking. We therefore conducted a meta-analysis of all controlled trials investigating the cognitive outcomes of exercise interventions in schizophrenia. Studies were identified from a systematic search across major electronic databases from inception to April 2016. Meta-analyses were used to calculate pooled effect sizes (Hedges g) and 95% CIs. We identified 10 eligible trials with cognitive outcome data for 385 patients with schizophrenia. Exercise significantly improved global cognition (g = 0.33, 95% CI = 0.13-0.53, P = .001) with no statistical heterogeneity (I (2) = 0%). The effect size in the 7 studies which were randomized controlled trials was g = 0.43 (P < .001). Meta-regression analyses indicated that greater amounts of exercise are associated with larger improvements in global cognition (β = .005, P = .065). Interventions which were supervised by physical activity professionals were also more effective (g = 0.47, P < .001). Exercise significantly improved the cognitive domains of working memory (g = 0.39, P = .024, N = 7, n = 282), social cognition (g = 0.71, P = .002, N = 3, n = 81), and attention/vigilance (g = 0.66, P = .005, N = 3, n = 104). Effects on processing speed, verbal memory, visual memory and reasoning and problem solving were not significant. This meta-analysis provides evidence that exercise can improve cognitive functioning among people with schizophrenia, particularly from interventions using higher dosages of exercise. Given the challenges in improving cognition, and the wider health benefits of exercise, a greater focus on providing supervised exercise to people with schizophrenia is needed.
Cannabis use in young people is common and associated with psychiatric disorders. However, the prospective link between cannabis use and bipolar disorder symptoms has rarely been investigated. The study hypothesis was that adolescent cannabis use is associated with hypomania in early adulthood via several potential etiological pathways.
Urban upbringing is associated with a 2-fold adulthood psychosis risk, and this association replicates for childhood psychotic symptoms. No study has investigated whether specific features of urban neighborhoods increase children’s risk for psychotic symptoms, despite these early psychotic phenomena elevating risk for schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders in adulthood.