Trina B Allen

Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States

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Publications (12)59.52 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Background: Clozapine and lithium increase neurosteroids in rodents, and both drugs demonstrate antisuicidal actions. We therefore hypothesized that neurosteroid levels may be reduced in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who completed suicide. Aims: To investigate neurosteroid levels in the parietal cortex and posterior cingulate in schizophrenia and bipolar patients who died by suicide, and compare them with patients with these disorders who died of other causes. Method: Neurosteroid levels were quantified by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry in the parietal cortex and posterior cingulate. Mann-Whitney analyses were conducted in exploratory post hoc analyses to investigate neurosteroids as possible biomarker candidates for suicide. Results: The study showed that pregnenolone was significantly decreased in the parietal cortex in the combined group of patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who died by suicide (n = 13) compared with patients with these disorders who died of other causes (n = 17, p = .02). Pregnenolone levels were also lower in the parietal cortex in the individual group of schizophrenia patients who died by suicide (n = 4) compared with schizophrenia patients who died of other causes (n = 11) p = .04). Conclusion: Pregnenolone alterations may be relevant to the neurobiology of suicide in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
    Crisis The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention 11/2014; 1(-1):1-9. DOI:10.1027/0227-5910/a000280 · 1.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Herpes virus infections can cause cognitive impairment during and after acute encephalitis. Although chronic, latent/persistent infection is considered to be relatively benign, some studies have documented cognitive impairment in exposed persons that is untraceable to encephalitis. These studies were conducted among schizophrenia (SZ) patients or older community dwellers, among whom it is difficult to control for the effects of co-morbid illness and medications. To determine whether the associations can be generalized to other groups, we examined a large sample of younger control individuals, SZ patients and their non-psychotic relatives (n=1852). Method Using multivariate models, cognitive performance was evaluated in relation to exposures to herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) and cytomegalovirus (CMV), controlling for familial and diagnostic status and sociodemographic variables, including occupation and educational status. Composite cognitive measures were derived from nine cognitive domains using principal components of heritability (PCH). Exposure was indexed by antibodies to viral antigens. Results: PCH1, the most heritable component of cognitive performance, declines with exposure to CMV or HSV-1 regardless of case/relative/control group status (p = 1.09 × 10-5 and 0.01 respectively), with stronger association with exposure to multiple herpes viruses (β = -0.25, p = 7.28 × 10-10). There were no significant interactions between exposure and group status. Conclusions: Latent/persistent herpes virus infections can be associated with cognitive impairments regardless of other health status.
    Psychological Medicine 09/2012; 43(05):1-9. DOI:10.1017/S003329171200195X · 5.94 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) implicate single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on chromosome 6p21.3-22.1, the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region, as common risk factors for schizophrenia (SZ). Other studies implicate viral and protozoan exposure. Our study tests chromosome 6p SNPs for effects on SZ risk with and without exposure. Method: GWAS-significant SNPs and ancestry-informative marker SNPs were analyzed among African American patients with SZ (n = 604) and controls (n = 404). Exposure to herpes simplex virus, type 1 (HSV-1), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Toxoplasma gondii (TOX) was assayed using specific antibody assays. Results: Five SNPs were nominally associated with SZ, adjusted for population admixture (P < .05, uncorrected for multiple comparisons). These SNPs were next analyzed in relation to infectious exposure. Multivariate analysis indicated significant association between rs3130297 genotype and HSV-1 exposure; the associated allele was different from the SZ risk allele. Conclusions: We propose a model for the genesis of SZ incorporating genomic variation in the HLA region and neurotropic viral exposure for testing in additional, independent African American samples.
    Schizophrenia Bulletin 09/2012; 38(6). DOI:10.1093/schbul/sbs087 · 8.45 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The role of daily functioning is an integral part of the schizophrenia (SZ) phenotype and deficits in this trait appear to be present in both affected persons and some unaffected relatives; hence we have examined its heritability in our cohort of African American schizophrenia families. There is now ample evidence that deficits in cognitive function can impact family members who are not themselves diagnosed with SZ; there is some, but less evidence that role function behaves likewise. We evaluate whether role function tends to "run in families" who were ascertained because they contain an African American proband diagnosed with SZ. We analyzed heritability for selected traits related to daily function, employment, living situation, marital status, and Global Assessment Scale (GAS) score; modeling age, gender, along with neurocognition and diagnosis as covariates in a family based African-American sample (N=2488 individuals including 979 probands). Measures of role function were heritable in models including neurocognitive domains and factor analytically derived neurocognitive summary scores and demographics as covariates; the most heritable estimate was obtained from the current GAS scores (h2=0.72). Neurocognition was not a significant contributor to heritability of role function. Commonly assessed demographic and clinical indicators of functioning are heritable with a global rating of functioning being the most heritable. Measures of neurocognition had little impact on heritability of functioning overall. The family covariance for functioning, reflected in its heritability, supports the concept that interventions at the family level, such as evidenced-based family psychoeducation may be beneficial in schizophrenia.
    Schizophrenia Research 05/2012; 139(1-3):105-9. DOI:10.1016/j.schres.2012.04.015 · 3.92 Impact Factor
  • Neurology Psychiatry and Brain Research 03/2012; 18(2):75. DOI:10.1016/j.npbr.2012.02.032 · 0.10 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Various measures of neurocognitive function show mean differences among individuals with schizophrenia (SZ), their relatives, and population controls. We use eigenvector transformations that maximize heritability of multiple neurocognitive measures, namely principal components of heritability (PCH), and evaluate how they distribute in SZ families and controls. Methods: African-Americans with SZ or schizoaffective disorder (SZA) (n = 514), their relatives (n = 1092), and adult controls (n = 300) completed diagnostic interviews and computerized neurocognitive tests. PCH were estimated from 9 neurocognitive domains. Three PCH, PCH1-PCH3, were modeled to determine if status (SZ, relative, and control), other psychiatric covariates, and education were significant predictors of mean values. A small-scale linkage analysis was also conducted in a subset of the sample. Results: PCH1, PCH2, and PCH3 account for 72% of the genetic variance. PCH1 represents 8 of 9 neurocognitive domains, is most highly correlated with spatial processing and emotion recognition, and has unadjusted heritability of 68%. The means for PCH1 differ significantly among SZ, their relatives, and controls. PCH2, orthogonal to PCH1, is most closely correlated with working memory and has an unadjusted heritability of 45%. Mean PCH2 is different only between SZ families and controls. PCH3 apparently represents a heritable component of neurocognition similar across the 3 diagnostic groups. No significant linkage evidence to PCH1-PCH3 or individual neurocognitive measures was discovered. Conclusions: PCH1 is highly heritable and genetically correlated with SZ. It should prove useful in future genetic analyses. Mean PCH2 differentiates SZ families and controls but not SZ and unaffected family members.
    Schizophrenia Bulletin 01/2012; 39(2). DOI:10.1093/schbul/sbr161 · 8.45 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Emerging preclinical and clinical evidence suggests that pregnenolone may be a promising novel therapeutic candidate in schizophrenia. Pregnenolone is a neurosteroid with pleiotropic actions in rodents that include the enhancement of learning and memory, neuritic outgrowth, and myelination. Further, pregnenolone administration results in elevations in downstream neurosteroids such as allopregnanolone, a molecule with neuroprotective effects that also increases neurogenesis, decreases apoptosis and inflammation, modulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and markedly increases GABA(A) receptor responses. In addition, pregnenolone administration elevates pregnenolone sulfate, a neurosteroid that positively modulates NMDA receptors. There are thus multiple mechanistic possibilities for pregnenolone as a potential therapeutic agent in schizophrenia, including the amelioration of NMDA receptor hypofunction (via metabolism to pregnenolone sulfate) and the mitigation of GABA dysregulation (via metabolism to allopregnanolone). Additional evidence consistent with a therapeutic role for pregnenolone in schizophrenia includes neurosteroid changes following administration of certain antipsychotics in rodent models. For example, clozapine elevates pregnenolone levels in rat hippocampus, and these increases may potentially contribute to its superior antipsychotic efficacy [Marx et al. (2006a) Pharmacol Biochem Behav 84:598-608]. Further, pregnenolone levels appear to be altered in postmortem brain tissue from patients with schizophrenia compared to control subjects [Marx et al. (2006c) Neuropsychopharmacology 31:1249-1263], suggesting that neurosteroid changes may play a role in the neurobiology of this disorder and/or its treatment. Although clinical trial data utilizing pregnenolone as a therapeutic agent in schizophrenia are currently limited, initial findings are encouraging. Treatment with adjunctive pregnenolone significantly decreased negative symptoms in patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder in a pilot proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial, and elevations in pregnenolone and allopregnanolone post-treatment with this intervention were correlated with cognitive improvements [Marx et al. (2009) Neuropsychopharmacology 34:1885-1903]. Another pilot randomized controlled trial recently presented at a scientific meeting demonstrated significant improvements in negative symptoms, verbal memory, and attention following treatment with adjunctive pregnenolone, in addition to enduring effects in a small subset of patients receiving pregnenolone longer-term [Savitz (2010) Society of Biological Psychiatry Annual Meeting New Orleans, LA]. A third pilot clinical trial reported significantly decreased positive symptoms and extrapyramidal side effects following adjunctive pregnenolone, in addition to increased attention and working memory performance [Ritsner et al. (2010) J Clin Psychiatry 71:1351-1362]. Future efforts in larger cohorts will be required to investigate pregnenolone as a possible therapeutic candidate in schizophrenia, but early efforts are promising and merit further investigation. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Neuroactive Steroids: Focus on Human Brain.
    Neuroscience 07/2011; 191:78-90. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.06.076 · 3.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The neurosteroid allopregnanolone has pronounced neuroprotective actions, increases myelination, and enhances neurogenesis. Evidence suggests that allopregnanolone dysregulation may play a role in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative disorders. Our prior data demonstrate that allopregnanolone is reduced in prefrontal cortex in male patients with AD compared to male cognitively intact control subjects, and inversely correlated with neuropathological disease stage (Braak and Braak). We therefore determined if allopregnanolone levels are also reduced in AD patients compared to control subjects in temporal cortex, utilizing a larger set of samples from both male and female patients. In addition, we investigated if neurosteroids are altered in subjects who are APOE4 allele carriers. Allopregnanolone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and pregnenolone levels were determined in temporal cortex postmortem samples by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, preceded by high performance liquid chromatography (40 subjects with AD/41 cognitively intact control subjects). Allopregnanolone levels are reduced in temporal cortex in patients with AD (median 2.68 ng/g, n=40) compared to control subjects (median 5.64 ng/g, n=41), Mann-Whitney p=0.0002, and inversely correlated with Braak and Braak neuropathological disease stage (Spearman r=-0.38, p=0.0004). DHEA and pregnenolone are increased in patients with AD compared to control subjects. Patients carrying an APOE4 allele demonstrate reduced allopregnanolone levels in temporal cortex (Mann-Whitney p=0.04). In summary, our findings indicate that neurosteroids are altered in temporal cortex in patients with AD and related to neuropathological disease stage. In addition, the APOE4 allele is associated with reduced allopregnanolone levels. Neurosteroids may be relevant to the neurobiology and therapeutics of AD.
    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 08/2010; 1801(8):951-9. DOI:10.1016/j.bbalip.2010.05.006 · 4.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neurocognitive impairments in schizophrenia are well replicated and widely regarded as candidate endophenotypes that may facilitate understanding of schizophrenia genetics and pathophysiology. The Project Among African-Americans to Explore Risks for Schizophrenia (PAARTNERS) aims to identify genes underlying liability to schizophrenia. The unprecedented size of its study group (N=1,872), made possible through use of a computerized neurocognitive battery, can help further investigation of the genetics of neurocognition. The current analysis evaluated two characteristics not fully addressed in prior research: 1) heritability of neurocognition in African American families and 2) relationship between neurocognition and psychopathology in families of African American probands with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Across eight data collection sites, patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder (N=610), their biological relatives (N=928), and community comparison subjects (N=334) completed a standardized diagnostic evaluation and the computerized neurocognitive battery. Performance accuracy and response time (speed) were measured separately for 10 neurocognitive domains. The patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder exhibited less accuracy and speed in most neurocognitive domains than their relatives both with and without other psychiatric disorders, who in turn were more impaired than comparison subjects in most domains. Estimated trait heritability after inclusion of the mean effect of diagnostic status, age, and sex revealed significant heritabilities for most neurocognitive domains, with the highest for accuracy of abstraction/flexibility, verbal memory, face memory, spatial processing, and emotion processing and for speed of attention. Neurocognitive functions in African American families are heritable and associated with schizophrenia. They show potential for gene-mapping studies.
    American Journal of Psychiatry 03/2010; 167(4):459-72. DOI:10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.08091351 · 12.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recessive mutations in the phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) gene predispose to phenylketonuria (PKU) in conjunction with dietary exposure to phenylalanine. Previous studies have suggested PAH variations could confer risk for schizophrenia, but comprehensive follow-up has not been reported. We analyzed 15 common PAH "tag" SNPs and three exonic variations that are rare in Caucasians but common in African-Americans among four independent samples (total n = 5,414). The samples included two US Caucasian cohorts (260 trios, 230 independent cases, 474 controls), Bulgarian families (659 trios), and an African-American sample (464 families, 401 controls). Analyses of both US Caucasian samples revealed associations with five SNPs; most notably the common allele (G) of rs1522305 from case-control analyses (z = 2.99, P = 0.006). This SNP was independently replicated in the Bulgarian cohort (z = 2.39, P = 0.015). A non-significant trend was also observed among African-American families (z = 1.39, P = 0.165), and combined analyses of all four samples were significant (rs1522305: chi(2) = 23.28, 8 d.f., P = 0.003). Results for rs1522305 met our a priori criteria for statistical significance, namely an association that was robust to multiple testing correction in one sample, a replicated risk allele in multiple samples, and combined analyses that were nominally significant. Case-control results in African-Americans detected an association with L321L (P = 0.047, OR = 1.46). Our analyses suggest several associations at PAH, with consistent evidence for rs1522305. Further analyses, including additional variations and environmental influences such as phenylalanine exposure are warranted.
    American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B Neuropsychiatric Genetics 06/2009; 150B(4):560-9. DOI:10.1002/ajmg.b.30862 · 3.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: While many studies have sought a window into the genetics of schizophrenia, few have focused on African-American families. An exception is the Project among African-Americans to Explore Risks for Schizophrenia (PAARTNERS), which seeks to identify novel and known risk variation for schizophrenia by genetic analyses of African-American families. We report a linkage study of diagnostic status in 217 African-American families using the Illumina Linkage Panel. Due to assumed incomplete and time-dependent penetrance, we performed linkage analysis using two different treatments of diagnosis: (1) treating both affected and unaffected individuals as informative for linkage (using the program SIBPAL) and (2) treating only affected individuals as informative (using the program MERLIN). We also explore three definitions of affected status: narrowly defined schizophrenia; one broadened to include schizoaffective disorder; and another including all diagnoses indicating psychosis. Several regions show a decrease in the evidence for linkage as the definition broadens 8q22.1 (rs911, 99.26 cM; SIBPAL p-value [p] goes from 0.006 to 0.02), 16q24.3 (rs1006547, 130.48 cM; p from 0.00095 to 0.0085), and 20q13.2 (rs1022689, 81.73 cM; p from 0.00015 to 0.032). One region shows a substantial increase in evidence for linkage, 11p15.2 (rs722317, 24.27 cM; p from 0.0022 to 0.0000003); MERLIN results support the significance of the SIBPAL results (p=0.00001). Our linkage results overlap two broad, previously-reported linkage regions: 8p23.3-p12 found in studies sampling largely families of European ancestry; and 11p11.2-q22.3 reported by a study of African-American families. These results should prove quite useful for uncovering loci affecting risk for schizophrenia.
    Schizophrenia Research 05/2009; 109(1-3):70-9. DOI:10.1016/j.schres.2009.02.007 · 3.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Project among African-Americans to Explore Risks for Schizophrenia (PAARTNERS) is a multi-site, NIMH-funded study that seeks to identify genetic polymorphisms that confer susceptibility to schizophrenia among African-Americans by linkage mapping and targeted association analyses. Because deficits in certain dimensions of cognitive ability are thought to underlie liability to schizophrenia, the project also examines cognitive abilities in individuals affected by schizophrenia and their extended family members. This article describes PAARTNERS study design, ascertainment methods and preliminary sample characteristics. We aim to recruit a sample of 1260 African-American families, all of whom have at least one proband with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. The data collection protocol includes a structured Diagnostic Interview for Genetic Studies, Family Interview for Genetic Studies, focused neurocognitive assessment, medical records review, and the collection of blood or buccal cells for genetic analyses. We have currently completed study procedures for 106 affected sib-pair, 457 case-parent trio and 23 multiplex families. A total of 289 probands have completed the best estimate final diagnosis process and 1153 probands and family members have been administered the computerized neuropsychological battery. This project lays the foundation for future analysis of cognitive and behavioral endophenotypes. This novel integration of diagnostic, neurocognitive and genetic data will also generate valuable information for future phenotypic and genetic studies of schizophrenia.
    Schizophrenia Research 11/2006; 87(1-3):32-44. DOI:10.1016/j.schres.2006.06.027 · 3.92 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

168 Citations
59.52 Total Impact Points


  • 2009–2014
    • Duke University
      Durham, North Carolina, United States
  • 2011–2012
    • Duke University Medical Center
      • Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
      Durham, North Carolina, United States
  • 2006
    • Morehouse School of Medicine
      Atlanta, Georgia, United States