Psychiatry - Research Publications

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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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    Cognitive ability and metabolic physical health in first-episode psychosis
    Whitson, S ; O'Donoghue, B ; Hester, R ; Baldwin, L ; Harrigan, S ; Francey, S ; Graham, J ; Nelson, B ; Ratheesh, A ; Alvarez-Jimenez, M ; Fornito, A ; Pantelis, C ; Yuen, HP ; Thompson, A ; Kerr, M ; Berk, M ; Wood, SJ ; McGorry, P ; Allott, K (ELSEVIER, 2021-02-13)
    Cognitive impairments are a core feature of first-episode psychosis (FEP), arising before illness onset and antipsychotic exposure. Individuals with chronic psychosis experience poorer physical health while taking antipsychotic medication, but health disparities may be evident at FEP onset, prior to antipsychotic exposure. Given the links between cognition and physical health in healthy populations, the aim was to explore whether cognition and physical health are associated in FEP, which could inform early physical health interventions for cognition in FEP. Participants were aged 15 to 25 and included 86 individuals experiencing FEP with limited antipsychotic exposure and duration of untreated psychosis of ≤six months, and 43 age- and sex-matched controls. Individuals with FEP performed significantly poorer than controls in most cognitive domains (Cohen's d = 0.38 to 1.59). Groups were similar in metabolic health measures, excluding a significantly faster heart rate in FEP (d = 0.68). Through hierarchical regression analyses, we found that in the overall sample, BMI was negatively related to current IQ after controlling for education and group (FEP/control). Relationships between BMI and cognition were consistent across the FEP and healthy control groups. In FEP, current IQ and working memory were negatively correlated with lipid profiles. Findings suggest that in FEP, impaired cognition is exhibited earlier than physical health problems, and that compared to controls, similar relationships with cognition are demonstrated. Causal pathways and trajectories of relationships between health and cognition in FEP require investigation, especially as antipsychotic medications are introduced. The findings have implications for cognitive and health interventions.
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    Neuroprotection after a first episode of mania: a randomized controlled maintenance trial comparing the effects of lithium and quetiapine on grey and white matter volume
    Berk, M ; Dandash, O ; Daglas, R ; Cotton, SM ; Allott, K ; Fornito, A ; Suo, C ; Klauser, P ; Liberg, B ; Henry, L ; Macneil, C ; Hasty, M ; McGorry, P ; Pantelis, C ; Yucel, M (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2017-01-24)
    Lithium and quetiapine are effective treatments for bipolar disorder, but their potential neuroprotective effects in humans remain unclear. A single blinded equivalence randomized controlled maintenance trial was conducted in a prospective cohort of first-episode mania (FEM) patients (n=26) to longitudinally compare the putative protective effects of lithium and quetapine on grey and white matter volume. A healthy control sample was also collected (n=20). Using structural MRI scans, voxel-wise grey and white matter volumes at baseline and changes over time in response to treatment were investigated. Patients were assessed at three time points (baseline, 3 and 12-month follow-up), whereas healthy controls were assessed at two time points (baseline and 12-month follow-up). Patients were randomized to lithium (serum level 0.6 mmol l-1, n=20) or quetiapine (flexibly dosed up to 800 mg per day, n=19) monotherapy. At baseline, compared with healthy control subjects, patients with FEM showed reduced grey matter in the orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, inferior frontal gyrus and cerebellum. In addition, patients had reduced internal capsule white matter volume bilaterally (t1,66>3.20, P<0.01). Longitudinally, there was a significant treatment × time effect only in the white matter of the left internal capsule (F2,112=8.54, P<0.01). Post hoc testing showed that, compared with baseline, lithium was more effective than quetiapine in slowing the progression of white matter volume reduction after 12 months (t1,24=3.76, P<0.01). Our data support the role of lithium but not quetiapine therapy in limiting white matter reduction early in the illness course after FEM.
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    Differential effect of quetiapine and lithium on functional connectivity of the striatum in first episode mania
    Dandash, O ; Yucel, M ; Daglas, R ; Pantelis, C ; McGorry, P ; Berk, M ; Fornito, A (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2018-03-06)
    Mood disturbances seen in first-episode mania (FEM) are linked to disturbed functional connectivity of the striatum. Lithium and quetiapine are effective treatments for mania but their neurobiological effects remain largely unknown. We conducted a single-blinded randomized controlled maintenance trial in 61 FEM patients and 30 healthy controls. Patients were stabilized for a minimum of 2 weeks on lithium plus quetiapine then randomly assigned to either lithium (serum level 0.6 mmol/L) or quetiapine (dosed up to 800 mg/day) treatment for 12 months. Resting-state fMRI was acquired at baseline, 3 months (patient only) and 12 months. The effects of treatment group, time and their interaction, on striatal functional connectivity were assessed using voxel-wise general linear modelling. At baseline, FEM patients showed reduced connectivity in the dorsal (p = 0.05) and caudal (p = 0.008) cortico-striatal systems when compared to healthy controls at baseline. FEM patients also showed increased connectivity in a circuit linking the ventral striatum with the medial orbitofrontal cortex, cerebellum and thalamus (p = 0.02). Longitudinally, we found a significant interaction between time and treatment group, such that lithium was more rapid, compared to quetiapine, in normalizing abnormally increased functional connectivity, as assessed at 3-month and 12-month follow-ups. The results suggest that FEM is associated with reduced connectivity in dorsal and caudal corticostriatal systems, as well as increased functional connectivity of ventral striatal systems. Lithium appears to act more rapidly than quetiapine in normalizing hyperconnectivity of the ventral striatum with the cerebellum. The study was registered on the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12607000639426). http://www.anzctr.org.au.
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    Biomarkers and clinical staging in psychiatry
    McGorry, P ; Keshavan, M ; Goldstone, S ; Amminger, P ; Allott, K ; Berk, M ; Lavoie, S ; Pantelis, C ; Yung, A ; Wood, S ; Hickie, I (WILEY, 2014-10-01)
    Personalized medicine is rapidly becoming a reality in today's physical medicine. However, as yet this is largely an aspirational goal in psychiatry, despite significant advances in our understanding of the biochemical, genetic and neurobiological processes underlying major mental disorders. Preventive medicine relies on the availability of predictive tools; in psychiatry we still largely lack these. Furthermore, our current diagnostic systems, with their focus on well-established, largely chronic illness, do not support a pre-emptive, let alone a preventive, approach, since it is during the early stages of a disorder that interventions have the potential to offer the greatest benefit. Here, we present a clinical staging model for severe mental disorders and discuss examples of biological markers that have already undergone some systematic evaluation and that could be integrated into such a framework. The advantage of this model is that it explicitly considers the evolution of psychopathology during the development of a mental illness and emphasizes that progression of illness is by no means inevitable, but can be altered by providing appropriate interventions that target individual modifiable risk and protective factors. The specific goals of therapeutic intervention are therefore broadened to include the prevention of illness onset or progression, and to minimize the risk of harm associated with more complex treatment regimens. The staging model also facilitates the integration of new data on the biological, social and environmental factors that influence mental illness into our clinical and diagnostic infrastructure, which will provide a major step forward in the development of a truly pre-emptive psychiatry.
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    Medial temporal lobe glutathione concentration in first episode psychosis: A H-1-MRS investigation
    Wood, SJ ; Berger, GE ; Wellard, RM ; Proffitt, T-M ; McConchie, M ; Berk, M ; McGorry, PD ; Pantelis, C (ACADEMIC PRESS INC ELSEVIER SCIENCE, 2009-03-01)
    Glutathione (GSH) is implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Previous brain spectroscopy studies, however, have been inconsistent, and there is little data available from first episode psychosis patients. This study compared brain GSH in a first episode cohort (n=30) to controls (n=18), using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), examining a temporal lobe voxel. Short-echo (TE 30 ms) acquisition proton MRS was performed on a 3T clinical magnetic resonance scanner. Comparison of the first-episode and control groups' GSH concentrations revealed a significant main effect of group (F(1,46)=4.7, p=0.035), but no main effect of hemisphere (F(1,46)=2.3, p=0.137) or group-by-side interactions (F(1,46)=0.4, p=0.513). Medial temporal lobe GSH concentrations in the first episode group were 22% higher than those in the control group. This study provides further evidence of significant perturbations in brain GSH in first episode psychosis, and supports a broader involvement of GSH in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.