Centre for Youth Mental Health - Research Publications

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    Digital technology for addressing cognitive impairment in recent-onset psychosis: A perspective
    Bell, I ; Pot-Kolder, RMCA ; Wood, SJ ; Nelson, B ; Acevedo, N ; Stainton, A ; Nicol, K ; Kean, J ; Bryce, S ; Bartholomeusz, CF ; Watson, A ; Schwartz, O ; Daglas-Georgiou, R ; Walton, CC ; Martin, D ; Simmons, M ; Zbukvic, I ; Thompson, A ; Nicholasa, J ; Alvarez-Jimenez, M ; Allott, K (ELSEVIER, 2022-06-01)
    Cognitive impairments in psychosis negatively impact functional recovery and quality of life. Existing interventions for improving cognitive impairment in recent-onset psychosis show inconsistent treatment efficacy, small effects, suboptimal engagement and limited generalizability to daily life functioning. In this perspective we explore how digital technology has the potential to address these limitations in order to improve cognitive and functional outcomes in recent-onset psychosis. Computer programs can be used for standardized, automated delivery of cognitive remediation training. Virtual reality provides the opportunity for learning and practicing cognitive skills in real-world scenarios within a virtual environment. Smartphone apps could be used for notification reminders for everyday tasks to compensate for cognitive difficulties. Internet-based technologies can offer psychoeducation and training materials for enhancing cognitive skills. Early findings indicate some forms of digital interventions for cognitive enhancement can be effective, with well-established evidence for human-supported computer-based cognitive remediation in recent-onset psychosis. Emerging evidence regarding virtual reality is favorable for improving social cognition. Overall, blending digital interventions with human support improves engagement and effectiveness. Despite the potential of digital interventions for enhancing cognition in recent-onset psychosis, few studies have been conducted to date. Implementation challenges affecting application of digital technologies for cognitive impairment in recent-onset psychosis are sustained engagement, clinical integration, and lack of quality in the commercial marketplace. Future opportunities lie in including motivational frameworks and behavioral change interventions, increasing service engagement in young people and lived experience involvement in digital intervention development.
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    Impact of smoking behavior on cognitive functioning in persons at risk for psychosis and healthy controls: A longitudinal study (vol 64, e60, 2021)
    van der Heijden, HS ; Schirmbeck, F ; Kempton, MJ ; van der Gaag, M ; Allott, K ; Nelson, B ; Ruhrmann, S ; de Haan, L ; Vermeulen, JM (CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2022-02-28)
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    Twelve-Month Cognitive Trajectories in Individuals at Ultra-High Risk for Psychosis: A Latent Class Analysis
    Allott, K ; Schmidt, SJ ; Yuen, HP ; Wood, SJ ; Nelson, B ; Markulev, C ; Lavoie, S ; Brewer, WJ ; Schäfer, MR ; Mossaheb, N ; Schlögelhofer, M ; Smesny, S ; Hickie, IB ; Berger, GE ; Chen, EYH ; De Haan, L ; Nieman, DH ; Nordentoft, M ; Riecher-Rössler, A ; Verma, S ; Thompson, A ; Yung, AR ; Amminger, P ; McGorry, PD ; Hartmann, J (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2022-01-01)
    Abstract Understanding longitudinal cognitive performance in individuals at ultra-high risk for psychosis (UHR) is important for informing theoretical models and treatment. A vital step in this endeavor is to determine whether there are UHR subgroups that have similar patterns of cognitive change over time. The aims were to: i) identify latent class trajectories of cognitive performance over 12-months in UHR individuals, ii) identify baseline demographic and clinical predictors of the resulting classes, and iii) determine whether trajectory classes were associated with transition to psychosis or functional outcomes. Cognition was assessed using the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia (BACS) at baseline, 6- and 12-months (N = 288). Using Growth Mixture Modeling, a single unimpaired improving trajectory class was observed for motor function, speed of processing, verbal fluency, and BACS composite. A two-class solution was observed for executive function and working memory, showing one unimpaired and a second impaired class. A three-class solution was found for verbal learning and memory: unimpaired, mildly impaired, and initially extremely impaired, but improved (“caught up”) to the level of the mildly impaired. IQ, omega-3 index, and premorbid adjustment were associated with class membership, whereas clinical variables (symptoms, substance use), including transition to psychosis, were not. Working memory and verbal learning and memory trajectory class membership was associated with functioning outcomes. These findings suggest there is no short-term progressive cognitive decline in help-seeking UHR individuals, including those who transition to psychosis. Screening of cognitive performance may be useful for identifying UHR individuals who may benefit from targeted cognitive interventions.
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    Frontostriatothalamic effective connectivity and dopaminergic function in the psychosis continuum.
    Sabaroedin, K ; Razi, A ; Chopra, S ; Tran, N ; Pozaruk, A ; Chen, Z ; Finlay, A ; Nelson, B ; Allott, K ; Alvarez-Jimenez, M ; Graham, J ; Yuen, HP ; Harrigan, S ; Cropley, V ; Sharma, S ; Saluja, B ; Williams, R ; Pantelis, C ; Wood, SJ ; O'Donoghue, B ; Francey, S ; McGorry, P ; Aquino, K ; Fornito, A (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2022-01-30)
    Dysfunction of fronto-striato-thalamic (FST) circuits is thought to contribute to dopaminergic dysfunction and symptom onset in psychosis, but it remains unclear whether this dysfunction is driven by aberrant bottom-up subcortical signaling or impaired top-down cortical regulation. We used spectral dynamic causal modelling of resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to characterize the effective connectivity of dorsal and ventral FST circuits in a sample of 46 antipsychotic-naïve first-episode psychosis patients and 23 controls and an independent sample of 36 patients with established schizophrenia patients and 100 controls. We also investigated the association between FST effective connectivity and striatal [18F]DOPA uptake in an independent healthy cohort of 33 individuals who underwent concurrent fMRI and positron emission tomography. Using a posterior probability threshold of 0.95, we found that midbrain and thalamic connectivity were implicated as dysfunctional across both patient groups. Dysconnectivity in first-episode psychosis patients was mainly restricted to the subcortex, with positive symptom severity being associated with midbrain connectivity. Dysconnectivity between the cortex and subcortical systems was only apparent in established schizophrenia patients. In the healthy [18F]DOPA cohort, we found that striatal dopamine synthesis capacity was associated with the effective connectivity of nigrostriatal and striatothalamic pathways, implicating similar circuits to those associated with psychotic symptom severity in patients. Overall, our findings indicate that subcortical dysconnectivity is evident in the early stages of psychosis, that cortical dysfunction may emerge later in the illness, and that nigrostriatal and striatothalamic signaling are closely related to striatal dopamine synthesis capacity, which is a robust marker for psychosis.
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    Impact of smoking Behavior on cognitive functioning in persons at risk for psychosis and healthy controls: A longitudinal study
    van der Heijden, HS ; Schirmbeck, F ; Kempton, MJ ; van der Gaag, M ; Allot, K ; Nelson, B ; Ruhrmann, S ; de Haan, L ; Vermeulen, JM (CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2021-09-21)
    BACKGROUND: The high prevalence of smoking in individuals who are at ultra-high risk (UHR) for psychosis is well known and moderate cognitive deficits have also been found in UHR. However, the association between smoking and cognition in UHR is unknown and longitudinal studies are lacking. METHOD: A cohort study with 330 UHR individuals and 66 controls was conducted, as part of the European network of national schizophrenia networks studying gene-environment interactions (EU-GEI). At baseline and after 6, 12, and 24 months, smoking behavior was assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview and cognitive functioning with a comprehensive test battery. Linear mixed-effects analyses were used to examine the multicross-sectional and prospective associations between (change in) smoking behavior and cognitive functioning, accounting for confounding variables. RESULTS: At baseline, 53% of UHR and 27% of controls smoked tobacco. Smoking UHR and controls did not significantly differ from nonsmoking counterparts on the tested cognitive domains (speed of processing, attention/vigilance, working memory, verbal learning, or reasoning/problem solving) across different assessment times. Neither smoking cessation nor initiation was associated with a significant change in cognitive functioning in UHR. CONCLUSIONS: No associations were found between smoking and cognitive impairment in UHR nor in controls. However, the fact that one in every two UHR individuals report daily use of tobacco is alarming. Our data suggest that UHR have fewer cognitive impairments and higher smoking cessation rates compared to patients with first-episode psychosis found in literature. Implications to promote smoking cessation in the UHR stage need further investigation.
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    Staged treatment and acceptability guidelines in early psychosis study (STAGES): A randomized placebo controlled trial of intensive psychosocial treatment plus or minus antipsychotic medication for first-episode psychosis with low-risk of self-harm or aggression. Study protocol and baseline characteristics of participants
    O'Donoghue, B ; Francey, SM ; Nelson, B ; Ratheesh, A ; Allott, K ; Grahann, J ; Baldwin, L ; Alvarez-Jinnenez, M ; Thonnpson, A ; Fornito, A ; Polari, A ; Berk, M ; Macneil, C ; Crisp, K ; Pantelis, C ; Yuen, HP ; Harrigan, S ; McGorry, P (WILEY, 2019-08-01)
    AIM: It is now necessary to investigate whether recovery in psychosis is possible without the use of antipsychotic medication. This study will determine (1) whether a first-episode psychosis (FEP) group receiving intensive psychosocial interventions alone can achieve symptomatic remission and functional recovery; (2) whether prolonging the duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) in a sub-group according to randomisation will be associated with a poorer outcome and thereby establish whether the relationship between DUP and outcome is causative; and (3) whether neurobiological changes observed in FEP are associated with the psychotic disorder or antipsychotic medication. Baseline characteristics of participants will be presented. METHODS: This study is a triple-blind randomized placebo-controlled non-inferiority trial. The primary outcome is the level of functioning measured by the Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale at 6 months. This study is being conducted at the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre, Melbourne and includes young people aged 15 to 24 years with a DSM-IV psychotic disorder, a DUP less than 6 months and not high risk for suicide or harm to others. Strict discontinuation criteria are being applied. Participants are also undergoing three 3-Tesla-MRI scans. RESULTS: Ninety participants have been recruited and baseline characteristics are presented. CONCLUSIONS: Staged treatment and acceptability guidelines in early psychosis will determine whether antipsychotic medications are indicated in all young people with a FEP and whether antipsychotic medication can be safely delayed. Furthermore, the relative contribution of psychotic illness and antipsychotic medication in terms of structural brain changes will also be elucidated. The findings will inform clinical practice guidelines.
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    Characterization and Prediction of Clinical Pathways of Vulnerability to Psychosis through Graph Signal Processing
    Sandini, C ; Zöller, D ; Schneider, M ; Tarun, A ; Armando, M ; Nelson, B ; Nelson, B ; Mallawaarachchi, SR ; Amminger, P ; Farhall, J ; Bolt, L ; Yuen, HP ; Markulev, C ; Schäfer, M ; Mossaheb, N ; Schlögelhofer, M ; Smesny, S ; Hickie, I ; Berger, GE ; Chen, EYH ; de Haan, L ; Nieman, D ; Nordentoft, M ; Riecher-Rössler, A ; Verma, S ; Thompson, A ; Yung, AR ; Allott, K ; McGorry, P ; Van De Ville, D ; Eliez, S ( 2020)
    There is a growing recognition that psychiatric symptoms have the potential to causally interact with one another. Particularly in the earliest stages of psychopathology dynamic interactions between symptoms could contribute heterogeneous and cross-diagnostic clinical evolutions. Current clinical approaches attempt to merge clinical manifestations that co-occur across subjects and could therefore significantly hinder our understanding of clinical pathways connecting individual symptoms. Network approaches have the potential to shed light on the complex dynamics of early psychopathology. In the present manuscript we attempt to address 2 main limitations that have in our opinion hindered the application of network approaches in the clinical setting. The first limitation is that network analyses have mostly been applied to cross-sectional data, yielding results that often lack the intuitive interpretability of simpler categorical or dimensional approaches. Here we propose an approach based on multi-layer network analysis that offers an intuitive low-dimensional characterization of longitudinal pathways involved in the evolution of psychopathology, while conserving high-dimensional information on the role of specific symptoms. The second limitation is that network analyses typically characterize symptom connectivity at the level of a population, whereas clinical practice deals with symptom severity at the level of the individual. Here we propose an approach based on graph signal processing that exploits knowledge of network interactions between symptoms to predict longitudinal clinical evolution at the level of the individual. We test our approaches in two independent samples of individuals with genetic and clinical vulnerability for developing psychosis.
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    Functional Connectivity in Antipsychotic-Treated and Antipsychotic-Naive Patients With First-Episode Psychosis and Low Risk of Self-harm or Aggression A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial
    Chopra, S ; Francey, SM ; O'Donoghue, B ; Sabaroedin, K ; Arnatkeviciute, A ; Cropley, V ; Nelson, B ; Graham, J ; Baldwin, L ; Tahtalian, S ; Yuen, HP ; Allott, K ; Alvarez-Jimenez, M ; Harrigan, S ; Pantelis, C ; Wood, SJ ; McGorry, P ; Fornito, A (AMER MEDICAL ASSOC, 2021-06-23)
    Importance: Altered functional connectivity (FC) is a common finding in resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) studies of people with psychosis, yet how FC disturbances evolve in the early stages of illness, and how antipsychotic treatment influences these disturbances, remains unknown. Objective: To investigate longitudinal FC changes in antipsychotic-naive and antipsychotic-treated patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP). Design, Setting, and Participants: This secondary analysis of a triple-blind, randomized clinical trial was conducted over a 5-year recruitment period between April 2008 and December 2016 with 59 antipsychotic-naive patients with FEP receiving either a second-generation antipsychotic or a placebo pill over a treatment period of 6 months. Participants were required to have low suicidality and aggression, to have a duration of untreated psychosis of less than 6 months, and to be living in stable accommodations with social support. Both FEP groups received intensive psychosocial therapy. A healthy control group was also recruited. Participants completed rs-fMRI scans at baseline, 3 months, and 12 months. Data were analyzed from May 2019 to August 2020. Interventions: Resting-state functional MRI was used to probe brain FC. Patients received either a second-generation antipsychotic or a matched placebo tablet. Both patient groups received a manualized psychosocial intervention. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcomes of this analysis were to investigate (1) FC differences between patients and controls at baseline; (2) FC changes in medicated and unmedicated patients between baseline and 3 months; and (3) associations between longitudinal FC changes and clinical outcomes. An additional aim was to investigate long-term FC changes at 12 months after baseline. These outcomes were not preregistered. Results: Data were analyzed for 59 patients (antipsychotic medication plus psychosocial treatment: 28 [47.5%]; mean [SD] age, 19.5 [3.0] years; 15 men [53.6%]; placebo plus psychosocial treatment: 31 [52.5%]; mean [SD] age, 18.8 [2.7]; 16 men [51.6%]) and 27 control individuals (mean [SD] age, 21.9 [1.9] years). At baseline, patients showed widespread functional dysconnectivity compared with controls, with reductions predominantly affecting interactions between the default mode network, limbic systems, and the rest of the brain. From baseline to 3 months, patients receiving placebo showed increased FC principally within the same systems; some of these changes correlated with improved clinical outcomes (canonical correlation analysis R = 0.901; familywise error-corrected P = .005). Antipsychotic exposure was associated with increased FC primarily between the thalamus and the rest of the brain. Conclusions and Relevance: In this secondary analysis of a clinical trial, antipsychotic-naive patients with FEP showed widespread functional dysconnectivity at baseline, followed by an early normalization of default mode network and cortical limbic dysfunction in patients receiving placebo and psychosocial intervention. Antipsychotic exposure was associated with FC changes concentrated on thalamocortical networks. Trial Registration: ACTRN12607000608460.
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    Omega-3 fatty acids and neurocognitive ability in young people at ultra-high risk for psychosis
    McLaverty, A ; Allott, KA ; Berger, M ; Hester, R ; McGorry, PD ; Nelson, B ; Markulev, C ; Yuen, HP ; Schaefer, MR ; Mossaheb, N ; Schloegelhofer, M ; Smesny, S ; Hickie, IB ; Berger, GE ; Chen, EYH ; de Haan, L ; Nieman, DH ; Nordentoft, M ; Riecher-Roessler, A ; Verma, S ; Thompson, A ; Yung, AR ; Amminger, GP (WILEY, 2020-09-06)
    BACKGROUND: Neurocognitive impairments are core early features of psychosis and are observed in those at ultra-high risk (UHR) for psychosis. The aim of the present study was to explore whether neurocognition is associated with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), as has been observed in other clinical populations. METHOD: Erythrocyte levels of total omega-3-and omega-6 PUFAs the omega-3/omega-6 ratio, were measured in 265 UHR individuals. Six domains of neurocognition as well a Composite Score, were assessed using the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia. Pearson's correlations were used to assess the relationship between PUFAs and neurocognition. All analyses were controlled for tobacco smoking. RESULTS: Verbal Fluency correlated positively with eicosapentaenoic acid (P = .024) and alpha-linolenic acid (P = .01), and negatively with docosahexanoic acid (P = .007) and Working Memory positively correlated with omega-3/omega-6 ratio (P = .007). CONCLUSIONS: The current results provide support for a relationship between Verbal Fluency and omega-3 PUFAs in UHR. Further investigation is required to elucidate whether these biomarkers are useful as risk markers or in understanding the biological underpinning of neurocognitive impairment in this population.
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    Differentiating the effect of antipsychotic medication and illness on brain volume reductions in first-episode psychosis: A Longitudinal, Randomised, Triple-blind, Placebo-controlled MRI Study
    Chopra, S ; Fornito, A ; Francey, SM ; O'Donoghue, B ; Cropley, V ; Nelson, B ; Graham, J ; Baldwin, L ; Tahtalian, S ; Yuen, HP ; Allott, K ; Alvarez-Jimenez, M ; Harrigan, S ; Sabaroedin, K ; Pantelis, C ; Wood, SJ ; McGorry, P (SPRINGERNATURE, 2021-02-26)
    Changes in brain volume are a common finding in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies of people with psychosis and numerous longitudinal studies suggest that volume deficits progress with illness duration. However, a major unresolved question concerns whether these changes are driven by the underlying illness or represent iatrogenic effects of antipsychotic medication. In this study, 62 antipsychotic-naïve patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP) received either a second-generation antipsychotic (risperidone or paliperidone) or a placebo pill over a treatment period of 6 months. Both FEP groups received intensive psychosocial therapy. A healthy control group (n = 27) was also recruited. Structural MRI scans were obtained at baseline, 3 months and 12 months. Our primary aim was to differentiate illness-related brain volume changes from medication-related changes within the first 3 months of treatment. We secondarily investigated long-term effects at the 12-month timepoint. From baseline to 3 months, we observed a significant group x time interaction in the pallidum (p < 0.05 FWE-corrected), such that patients receiving antipsychotic medication showed increased volume, patients on placebo showed decreased volume, and healthy controls showed no change. Across the entire patient sample, a greater increase in pallidal grey matter volume over 3 months was associated with a greater reduction in symptom severity. Our findings indicate that psychotic illness and antipsychotic exposure exert distinct and spatially distributed effects on brain volume. Our results align with prior work in suggesting that the therapeutic efficacy of antipsychotic medications may be primarily mediated through their effects on the basal ganglia.