Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) represent a formidable challenge for psychiatry and neuroscience because of their high prevalence, lifelong nature, complexity and substantial heterogeneity. Facing these obstacles requires large-scale multidisciplinary efforts. Although the field of genetics has pioneered data sharing for these reasons, neuroimaging had not kept pace. In response, we introduce the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE)-a grassroots consortium aggregating and openly sharing 1112 existing resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (R-fMRI) data sets with corresponding structural MRI and phenotypic information from 539 individuals with ASDs and 573 age-matched typical controls (TCs; 7-64 years) (http://fcon_1000.projects.nitrc.org/indi/abide/). Here, we present this resource and demonstrate its suitability for advancing knowledge of ASD neurobiology based on analyses of 360 male subjects with ASDs and 403 male age-matched TCs. We focused on whole-brain intrinsic functional connectivity and also survey a range of voxel-wise measures of intrinsic functional brain architecture. Whole-brain analyses reconciled seemingly disparate themes of both hypo- and hyperconnectivity in the ASD literature; both were detected, although hypoconnectivity dominated, particularly for corticocortical and interhemispheric functional connectivity. Exploratory analyses using an array of regional metrics of intrinsic brain function converged on common loci of dysfunction in ASDs (mid- and posterior insula and posterior cingulate cortex), and highlighted less commonly explored regions such as the thalamus. The survey of the ABIDE R-fMRI data sets provides unprecedented demonstrations of both replication and novel discovery. By pooling multiple international data sets, ABIDE is expected to accelerate the pace of discovery setting the stage for the next generation of ASD studies.
Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder (MDD) have all been associated with aberrant blood cytokine levels; however, neither the pattern of cytokine alterations nor the impact of clinical status have been compared across disorders. We performed a meta-analysis of blood cytokines in acutely and chronically ill patients with these major psychiatric disorders. Articles were identified by searching the PubMed, PsycInfo and Web of Science, and the reference lists of these studies. Sixty-eight studies met the inclusion criteria (40 schizophrenia, 10 bipolar disorder and 18 MDD) for acutely ill patients. Forty-six studies met the inclusion criteria (18 schizophrenia, 16 bipolar disorder and 12 MDD) for chronically ill patients. Levels of two cytokines (interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha)), one soluble cytokine receptor (sIL-2R), and one cytokine receptor antagonist (IL-1RA) were significantly increased in acutely ill patients with schizophrenia, bipolar mania and MDD compared with controls (P<0.01). Following treatment of the acute illness, IL-6 levels significantly decreased in both schizophrenia and MDD (P<0.01); sIL-2R levels increased in schizophrenia; and IL-1RA levels in bipolar mania decreased. In chronically ill patients, the levels of IL-6 were significantly increased in schizophrenia, euthymic (but not depressed) bipolar disorder and MDD compared with controls (P<0.01). The levels of IL-1 beta and sIL-2R were significantly increased in both chronic schizophrenia and euthymic bipolar disorder. Overall, there were similarities in the pattern of cytokine alterations in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and MDD during acute and chronic phases of illness, raising the possibility of common underlying pathways for immune dysfunction. Effects of treatment on cytokines were more robust for schizophrenia and MDD, but were more frequently studied than for acute mania. These findings have important implications for our understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment of major psychiatric disorders.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the result of complex gene-environment interactions. According to the World Health Organization, MDD is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and it is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. However, the definitive environmental mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of MDD remain elusive. The gut microbiome is an increasingly recognized environmental factor that can shape the brain through the microbiota-gut-brain axis. We show here that the absence of gut microbiota in germ-free (GF) mice resulted in decreased immobility time in the forced swimming test relative to conventionally raised healthy control mice. Moreover, from clinical sampling, the gut microbiotic compositions of MDD patients and healthy controls were significantly different with MDD patients characterized by significant changes in the relative abundance of Firmicutes, Actinobacteria and Bacteroidetes. Fecal microbiota transplantation of GF mice with 'depression microbiota' derived from MDD patients resulted in depression-like behaviors compared with colonization with 'healthy microbiota' derived from healthy control individuals. Mice harboring 'depression microbiota' primarily exhibited disturbances of microbial genes and host metabolites involved in carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism. This study demonstrates that dysbiosis of the gut microbiome may have a causal role in the development of depressive-like behaviors, in a pathway that is mediated through the host's metabolism.
Bacterial colonisation of the intestine has a major role in the post-natal development and maturation of the immune and endocrine systems. These processes are key factors underpinning central nervous system (CNS) signalling. Regulation of the microbiome-gut-brain axis is essential for maintaining homeostasis, including that of the CNS. However, there is a paucity of data pertaining to the influence of microbiome on the serotonergic system. Germ-free (GF) animals represent an effective preclinical tool to investigate such phenomena. Here we show that male GF animals have a significant elevation in the hippocampal concentration of 5-hydroxytryptamine and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, its main metabolite, compared with conventionally colonised control animals. Moreover, this alteration is sex specific in contrast with the immunological and neuroendocrine effects which are evident in both sexes. Concentrations of tryptophan, the precursor of serotonin, are increased in the plasma of male GF animals, suggesting a humoral route through which the microbiota can influence CNS serotonergic neurotransmission. Interestingly, colonisation of the GF animals post weaning is insufficient to reverse the CNS neurochemical consequences in adulthood of an absent microbiota in early life despite the peripheral availability of tryptophan being restored to baseline values. In addition, reduced anxiety in GF animals is also normalised following restoration of the intestinal microbiota. These results demonstrate that CNS neurotransmission can be profoundly disturbed by the absence of a normal gut microbiota and that this aberrant neurochemical, but not behavioural, profile is resistant to restoration of a normal gut flora in later life.
textabstractThe pattern of structural brain alterations associated with major depressive disorder (MDD) remains unresolved. This is in part due to small sample sizes of neuroimaging studies resulting in limited statistical power, disease heterogeneity and the complex interactions between clinical characteristics and brain morphology. To address this, we meta-analyzed three-dimensional brain magnetic resonance imaging data from 1728 MDD patients and 7199 controls from 15 research samples worldwide, to identify subcortical brain volumes that robustly discriminate MDD patients from healthy controls. Relative to controls, patients had significantly lower hippocampal volumes (Cohen's d=-0.14, % difference=-1.24). This effect was driven by patients with recurrent MDD (Cohen's d=-0.17, % difference=-1.44), and we detected no differences between first episode patients and controls. Age of onset ≤21 was associated with a smaller hippocampus (Cohen's d=-0.20, % difference=-1.85) and a trend toward smaller amygdala (Cohen's d=-0.11, % difference=-1.23) and larger lateral ventricles (Cohen's d=0.12, % difference=5.11). Symptom severity at study inclusion was not associated with any regional brain volumes. Sample characteristics such as mean age, proportion of antidepressant users and proportion of remitted patients, and methodological characteristics did not significantly moderate alterations in brain volumes in MDD. Samples with a higher proportion of antipsychotic medication users showed larger caudate volumes in MDD patients compared with controls. This currently largest worldwide effort to identify subcortical brain alterations showed robust smaller hippocampal volumes in MDD patients, moderated by age of onset and first episode versus recurrent episode status.
Patients with mental disorders show many biological abnormalities which distinguish them from normal volunteers; however, few of these have led to tests with clinical utility. Several reasons contribute to this delay: lack of a biological 'gold standard' definition of psychiatric illnesses; a profusion of statistically significant, but minimally differentiating, biological findings; approximate replications' of these findings in a way that neither confirms nor refutes them; and a focus on comparing prototypical patients to healthy controls which generates differentiations with limited clinical applicability. Overcoming these hurdles will require a new approach. Rather than seek biomedical tests that can 'diagnose' DSM-defined disorders, the field should focus on identifying biologically homogenous subtypes that cut across phenotypic diagnosis-thereby sidestepping the issue of a gold standard. To ensure clinical relevance and applicability, the field needs to focus on clinically meaningful differences between relevant clinical populations, rather than hypothesis-rejection versus normal controls. Validating these new biomarker-defined subtypes will require longitudinal studies with standardized measures which can be shared and compared across studies-thereby overcoming the problem of significance chasing and approximate replications. Such biological tests, and the subtypes they define, will provide a natural basis for a 'stratified psychiatry' that will improve clinical outcomes across conventional diagnostic boundaries.
The profile of brain structural abnormalities in schizophrenia is still not fully understood, despite decades of research using brain scans. To validate a prospective meta-analysis approach to analyzing multicenter neuroimaging data, we analyzed brain MRI scans from 2028 schizophrenia patients and 2540 healthy controls, assessed with standardized methods at 15 centers worldwide. We identified subcortical brain volumes that differentiated patients from controls, and ranked them according to their effect sizes. Compared with healthy controls, patients with schizophrenia had smaller hippocampus (Cohen's d=-0.46), amygdala (d=-0.31), thalamus (d=-0.31), accumbens (d=-0.25) and intracranial volumes (d=-0.12), as well as larger pallidum (d=0.21) and lateral ventricle volumes (d=0.37). Putamen and pallidum volume augmentations were positively associated with duration of illness and hippocampal deficits scaled with the proportion of unmedicated patients. Worldwide cooperative analyses of brain imaging data support a profile of subcortical abnormalities in schizophrenia, which is consistent with that based on traditional meta-analytic approaches. This first ENIGMA Schizophrenia Working Group study validates that collaborative data analyses can readily be used across brain phenotypes and disorders and encourages analysis and data sharing efforts to further our understanding of severe mental illness
The 'Vascular Depression' hypothesis posits that cerebrovascular disease may predispose, precipitate or perpetuate some geriatric depressive syndromes. This hypothesis stimulated much research that has improved our understanding of the complex relationships between late-life depression (LLD), vascular risk factors, and cognition. Succinctly, there are well-established relationships between LLD, vascular risk factors and cerebral hyperintensities, the radiological hallmark of vascular depression. Cognitive dysfunction is common in LLD, particularly executive dysfunction, a finding predictive of poor antidepressant response. Over time, progression of hyperintensities and cognitive deficits predicts a poor course of depression and may reflect underlying worsening of vascular disease. This work laid the foundation for examining the mechanisms by which vascular disease influences brain circuits and influences the development and course of depression. We review data testing the vascular depression hypothesis with a focus on identifying potential underlying vascular mechanisms. We propose a disconnection hypothesis, wherein focal vascular damage and white matter lesion location is a crucial factor, influencing neural connectivity that contributes to clinical symptomatology. We also propose inflammatory and hypoperfusion hypotheses, concepts that link underlying vascular processes with adverse effects on brain function that influence the development of depression. Testing such hypotheses will not only inform the relationship between vascular disease and depression, but also provide guidance on the potential repurposing of pharmacological agents that may improve LLD outcomes.
A small number of rare, recurrent genomic copy number variants (CNVs) are known to substantially increase susceptibility to schizophrenia. As a consequence of the low fecundity in people with schizophrenia and other neurodevelopmental phenotypes to which these CNVs contribute, CNVs with large effects on risk are likely to be rapidly removed from the population by natural selection. Accordingly, such CNVs must frequently occur as recurrent de novo mutations. In a sample of 662 schizophrenia proband-parent trios, we found that rare de novo CNV mutations were significantly more frequent in cases (5.1% all cases, 5.5% family history negative) compared with 2.2% among 2623 controls, confirming the involvement of de novo CNVs in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Eight de novo CNVs occurred at four known schizophrenia loci (3q29, 15q11.2, 15q13.3 and 16p11.2). De novo CNVs of known pathogenic significance in other genomic disorders were also observed, including deletion at the TAR (thrombocytopenia absent radius) region on 1q21.1 and duplication at the WBS (Williams-Beuren syndrome) region at 7q11.23. Multiple de novos spanned genes encoding members of the DLG (discs large) family of membrane-associated guanylate kinases (MAGUKs) that are components of the postsynaptic density (PSD). Two de novos also affected EHMT1, a histone methyl transferase known to directly regulate DLG family members. Using a systems biology approach and merging novel CNV and proteomics data sets, systematic analysis of synaptic protein complexes showed that, compared with control CNVs, case de novos were significantly enriched for the PSD proteome (P=1.72 x 10(-6)). This was largely explained by enrichment for members of the N-methyl-b-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) (P=4.24 x 10(-6)) and neuronal activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (ARC) (P=3.78 x 10(-6)) postsynaptic signalling complexes. In an analysis of 18 492 subjects (7907 cases and 10 585 controls), case CNVs were enriched for members of the NMDAR complex (P=0.0015) but not ARC (P=0.14). Our data indicate that defects in NMDAR postsynaptic signalling and, possibly, ARC complexes, which are known to be important in synaptic plasticity and cognition, play a significant role in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Molecular Psychiatry (2012) 17, 142-153; doi:10.1038/mp.2011.154; published online 15 November 2011
The neuro-anatomical substrates of major depressive disorder (MDD) are still not well understood, despite many neuroimaging studies over the past few decades. Here we present the largest ever worldwide study by the ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis) Major Depressive Disorder Working Group on cortical structural alterations in MDD. Structural T1-weighted brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans from 2148 MDD patients and 7957 healthy controls were analysed with harmonized protocols at 20 sites around the world. To detect consistent effects of MDD and its modulators on cortical thickness and surface area estimates derived from MRI, statistical effects from sites were meta-analysed separately for adults and adolescents. Adults with MDD had thinner cortical gray matter than controls in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), anterior and posterior cingulate, insula and temporal lobes (Cohen's d effect sizes: -0.10 to -0.14). These effects were most pronounced in first episode and adult-onset patients (>21 years). Compared to matched controls, adolescents with MDD had lower total surface area (but no differences in cortical thickness) and regional reductions in frontal regions (medial OFC and superior frontal gyrus) and primary and higher-order visual, somatosensory and motor areas (d: -0.26 to -0.57). The strongest effects were found in recurrent adolescent patients. This highly powered global effort to identify consistent brain abnormalities showed widespread cortical alterations in MDD patients as compared to controls and suggests that MDD may impact brain structure in a highly dynamic way, with different patterns of alterations at different stages of life.
The neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia, which posits that the illness is the end state of abnormal neurodevelopmental processes that started years before the illness onset, is widely accepted, and has long been dominant for childhood-onset neuropsychiatric disorders. This selective review updates our 2005 review of recent studies that have impacted, or have the greatest potential to modify or extend, the neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia. Longitudinal whole-population studies support a dimensional, rather than categorical, concept of psychosis. New studies suggest that placental pathology could be a key measure in future prenatal high-risk studies. Both common and rare genetic variants have proved surprisingly diagnostically nonspecific, and copy number variants (CNVs) associated with schizophrenia are often also associated with autism, epilepsy and intellectual deficiency. Large post-mortem gene expression studies and prospective developmental multi-modal brain imaging studies are providing critical data for future clinical and high-risk developmental brain studies. Whether there can be greater molecular specificity for phenotypic characterization is a subject of current intense study and debate, as is the possibility of neuronal phenotyping using human pluripotent-inducible stem cells. Biological nonspecificity, such as in timing or nature of early brain development, carries the possibility of new targets for broad preventive treatments. Molecular Psychiatry (2012) 17, 1228-1238; doi:10.1038/mp.2012.23; published online 10 April 2012
Meta-analyses, published in 2008-2010, have confirmed abnormally low serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) concentrations in depressed patients and normalization of this by antidepressant treatment. These findings are believed to reflect peripheral manifestations of the neurotrophin hypothesis, which states that depression is secondary to an altered expression of BDNF in the brain. Since the publication of these meta-analyses, the field has seen a huge increase in studies on these topics. This motivated us to update the evidence on the aforementioned associations and, in addition, to compile the data on serum BDNF concentrations in relation to the symptom severity of depression. Using a manifold of data as compared with earlier meta-analyses, we find low serum BDNF concentrations in 2384 antidepressant-free depressed patients relative to 2982 healthy controls and to 1249 antidepressant-treated depressed patients (Cohen's d=-0.71 and -0.56, P-values <0.0000001). When publication bias is accounted for, these effect-sizes become substantially smaller (d=-0.47 and -0.34, respectively, P-values<0.0001). We detect between-study heterogeneity in outcomes for which only year of publication and sample size are significant moderators, with more recent papers and larger samples sizes in general being associated with smaller between-group differences. Finally, the aggregated data negate consistent associations between serum BDNF concentrations and the symptom severity of depression. Our findings corroborate the claim that altered serum BDNF concentrations are peripheral manifestations of depression. However, here we highlight that the evidence for this claim is slimmer as was initially thought and amidst a lot of noise.
Childhood trauma confers higher risk of adulthood physical and mental illness; however, the biological mechanism mediating this association remains largely unknown. Recent research has suggested dysregulation of the immune system as a possible biological mediator. The present paper conducted a meta-analysis to establish whether early-life adversity contributes to potentially pathogenic pro-inflammatory phenotypes in adult individuals. A systematic search of Pubmed, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Scopus and Medline identified 25 articles for the meta-analysis, including 18 studies encompassing a sample of 16 870 individuals for C-reactive protein (CRP), 15 studies including 3751 individuals for interleukin-6 (IL-6) and 10 studies including 881 individuals for tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). Random-effects meta-analysis showed that individuals exposed to childhood trauma had significantly elevated baseline peripheral levels of CRP (Fisher's z = 0.10, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.05-0.14), IL-6 (z = 0.08, 95% CI = 0.03-0.14) and TNF-alpha (z = 0.23, 95% CI = 0.14-0.32). Subgroup analyses for specific types of trauma (sexual, physical or emotional abuse) revealed that these impact differentially the single inflammatory markers. Moreover, meta-regression revealed greater effect sizes in clinical samples for the association between childhood trauma and CRP but not for IL-6 or TNF-alpha. Age, body mass index (BMI) and gender had no moderating effects. The analysis demonstrates that childhood trauma contributes to a pro-inflammatory state in adulthood, with specific inflammatory profiles depending on the specific type of trauma.
Despite significant advances in the study of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), important questions remain about the disorder's public health significance, appropriate diagnostic classification, and clinical heterogeneity. These issues were explored using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a nationally representative survey of US adults. A subsample of 2073 respondents was assessed for lifetime Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edn (DSM-IV) OCD. More than one quarter of respondents reported experiencing obsessions or compulsions at some time in their lives. While conditional probability of OCD was strongly associated with the number of obsessions and compulsions reported, only small proportions of respondents met full DSM-IV criteria for lifetime (2.3%) or 12-month (1.2%) OCD. OCD is associated with substantial comorbidity, not only with anxiety and mood disorders but also with impulse-control and substance use disorders. Severity of OCD, assessed by an adapted version of the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale, is associated with poor insight, high comorbidity, high role impairment, and high probability of seeking treatment. The high prevalence of subthreshold OCD symptoms may help explain past inconsistencies in prevalence estimates across surveys and suggests that the public health burden of OCD may be greater than its low prevalence implies. Evidence of a preponderance of early onset cases in men, high comorbidity with a wide range of disorders, and reliable associations between disorder severity and key outcomes may have implications for how OCD is classified in DSM-V. Molecular Psychiatry (2010) 15, 53-63; doi: 10.1038/mp.2008.94; published online 26 August 2008
Stressors are imminent or perceived challenges to homeostasis. The stress response is an innate, stereotypic, adaptive response to stressors that has evolved in the service of restoring the nonstressed homeostatic set point. It is encoded in specific neuroanatomical sites that activate a specific repertoire of cognitive, behavioral and physiologic phenomena. Adaptive responses, though essential for survival, can become dysregulated and result in disease. A clear example is autoimmune disease. I postulate that depression, like autoimmunity, represents a dysregulated adaptive response: a stress response that has gone awry. The cardinal manifestation of the normal stress response is anxiety. Cognitive programs shift from complex associative operations to rapid retrieval of unconscious emotional memories acquired during prior threatening situations. These emerge automatically to promote survival. To prevent distraction during stressful situations, the capacity to seek and experience pleasure is reduced, food intake is diminished and sexual activity and sleep are held in abeyance. Monoamines, cytokines, glutamate, GABA and other central mediators have key roles in the normal stress response. Many central loci are involved. The subgenual prefrontal cortex restrains the amygdala, the corticotropin-releasing hormone/hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (CRH/HPA) axis and the sympathomedullary system. The function of the subgenual prefrontal cortex is moderately diminished during normal stress to disinhibit these loci. This disinhibition promotes anxiety and physiological hyperarousal, while diminishing appetite and sleep. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is downregulated, diminishing cognitive regulation of anxiety. The nucleus accumbens is also downregulated, to reduce the propensity for distraction by pleasurable stimuli or the capacity to experience pleasure. Insulin resistance, inflammation and a prothrombotic state acutely emerge. These provide increased glucose for the brain and establish premonitory, proinflammatory and prothrombotic states in anticipation of either injury or hemorrhage during a threatening situation. Essential adaptive intracellular changes include increased neurogenesis, enhancement of neuroplasticity and deployment of a successful endoplasmic reticulum stress response. In melancholic depression, the activities of the central glutamate, norepinephrine and central cytokine systems are significantly and persistently increased. The subgenual prefrontal cortex is functionally impaired, and its size is reduced by as much as 40%. This leads to sustained anxiety and activations of the amygdala, CRH/HPA axis, the sympathomedullary system and their sequella, including early morning awakening and loss of appetite. The sustained activation of the amygdala, in turn, further activates stress system neuroendocrine and autonomic functions. The activity of the nucleus accumbens is further decreased and anhedonia emerges. Concomitantly, neurogenesis and neuroplasticity fall significantly. Antidepressants ameliorate many of these processes. The processes that lead to the behavioral and physiological manifestations of depressive illness produce a significant decrease in lifespan, and a doubling of the incidence of premature coronary artery disease. The incidences of premature diabetes and osteoporosis are also substantially increased. Six physiological processes that occur during stress and that are markedly increased in melancholia set into motion six different mechanisms to produce inflammation, as well as sustained insulin resistance and a prothrombotic state. Clinically, melancholic and atypical depression seem to be antithesis of one another. In melancholia, depressive systems are at their worst in the morning when arousal systems, such as the CRH/HPA axis and the noradrenergic systems, are at their maxima. In atypical depression, depressive symptoms are at their worst in the evening, when these arousal systems are at their minima. Melancholic patients experience anorexia and insomnia, whereas atypical patients experience hyperphagia and hypersomnia. Melancholia seems like an activation and persistence of the normal stress response, whereas atypical depression resembles a stress response that has been excessively inhibited. It is important that we stratify clinical studies of depressed patients to compare melancholic and atypical subtypes and establish their differential pathophysiology. Overall, it is important to note that many of the major mediators of the stress response and melancholic depression, such as the subgenual prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, the noradrenergic system and the CRH/HPA axis participate in multiple reinforcing positive feedback loops. This organization permits the establishment of the markedly exaggerated, persistent elevation of the stress response seen in melancholia. Given their pronounced interrelatedness, it may not matter where in this cascade the first abnormality arises. It will spread to the other loci and initiate each of their activations in a pernicious vicious cycle.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the inflammatory response system have been suggested as pathophysiological mechanisms implicated in the etiology of major depressive disorder (MDD). Although meta-analyses do confirm associations between depression and these biological systems, effect sizes vary greatly among individual studies. A potentially important factor explaining variability is heterogeneity of MDD. Aim of this study was to evaluate the association between depressive subtypes (based on latent class analysis) and biological measures. Data from 776 persons from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, including 111 chronic depressed persons with melancholic depression, 122 with atypical depression and 543 controls were analyzed. Inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha), metabolic syndrome components, body mass index (BMI), saliva cortisol awakening curves (area under the curve with respect to the ground (AUCg) and with respect to the increase (AUCi)), and diurnal cortisol slope were compared among groups. Persons with melancholic depression had a higher AUCg and higher diurnal slope compared with persons with atypical depression and with controls. Persons with atypical depression had significantly higher levels of inflammatory markers, BMI, waist circumference and triglycerides, and lower high-density lipid cholesterol than persons with melancholic depression and controls. This study confirms that chronic forms of the two major subtypes of depression are associated with different biological correlates with inflammatory and metabolic dysregulation in atypical depression and HPA-axis hyperactivity in melancholic depression. The data provide further evidence that chronic forms of depressive subtypes differ not only in their symptom presentation, but also in their biological correlates. These findings have important implications for future research on pathophysiological pathways of depression and treatment.
Autism affects males more than females, giving rise to the idea that the influence of steroid hormones on early fetal brain development may be one important early biological risk factor. Utilizing the Danish Historic Birth Cohort and Danish Psychiatric Central Register, we identified all amniotic fluid samples of males born between 1993 and 1999 who later received ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision) diagnoses of autism, Asperger syndrome or PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) (n = 128) compared with matched typically developing controls. Concentration levels of Delta 4 sex steroids (progesterone, 17 alpha-hydroxy-progesterone, androstenedione and testosterone) and cortisol were measured with liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. All hormones were positively associated with each other and principal component analysis confirmed that one generalized latent steroidogenic factor was driving much of the variation in the data. The autism group showed elevations across all hormones on this latent generalized steroidogenic factor (Cohen's d = 0.37, P = 0.0009) and this elevation was uniform across ICD-10 diagnostic label. These results provide the first direct evidence of elevated fetal steroidogenic activity in autism. Such elevations may be important as epigenetic fetal programming mechanisms and may interact with other important pathophysiological factors in autism.
General intelligence is an important human quantitative trait that accounts for much of the variation in diverse cognitive abilities. Individual differences in intelligence are strongly associated with many important life outcomes, including educational and occupational attainments, income, health and lifespan. Data from twin and family studies are consistent with a high heritability of intelligence, but this inference has been controversial. We conducted a genome-wide analysis of 3511 unrelated adults with data on 549 692 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and detailed phenotypes on cognitive traits. We estimate that 40% of the variation in crystallized-type intelligence and 51% of the variation in fluid-type intelligence between individuals is accounted for by linkage disequilibrium between genotyped common SNP markers and unknown causal variants. These estimates provide lower bounds for the narrow-sense heritability of the traits. We partitioned genetic variation on individual chromosomes and found that, on average, longer chromosomes explain more variation. Finally, using just SNP data we predicted similar to 1% of the variance of crystallized and fluid cognitive phenotypes in an independent sample (P=0.009 and 0.028, respectively). Our results unequivocally confirm that a substantial proportion of individual differences in human intelligence is due to genetic variation, and are consistent with many genes of small effects underlying the additive genetic influences on intelligence. Molecular Psychiatry (2011) 16, 996-1005; doi: 10.1038/mp.2011.85; published online 9 August 2011