[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cannabis use is frequent among first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients and has been associated with several clinical features. This study aimed in an FEP sample to determine whether cannabis use is associated with 1) a higher level of positive symptoms, a lower level of depression and a better premorbid adjustment, 2) an earlier age of onset, and a better premorbid IQ. The study was conducted within the framework of the Psychosis Incident Cohort Outcome Study (PICOS), a multisite collaborative research on FEP patients who attended the psychiatric services in Veneto Region, Italy. Standardized instruments were used to collect sociodemographic, clinical, and drug use data. A total of 555 FEP patients met the inclusion criteria, 517 of whom received an ICD-10 diagnosis of psychosis; 397 (55% males; mean age: 32yrs ± 9.5) were assessed. Out of these, 311 patients agreed to be interviewed on drug and alcohol misuse; 20.3% was positive for drug misuse: cannabis (19.0%), cocaine (3.9%), and hallucinogens (3.9%). Cannabis use was not associated with a higher level of positive symptoms, but correlated with less severe depressive symptoms. No relationship was observed between premorbid adjustment or IQ and cannabis use. FEP patients who used cannabis had an earlier age of onset than abstinent patients, even after adjusting for gender and diagnosis. Our results suggest a possible causal role of cannabis in triggering psychosis in certain vulnerable subjects. Particular attention must be paid to this behaviour, because reducing cannabis use can delay or prevent some cases of psychosis.
No preview · Article · Jan 2013 · Journal of Psychiatric Research
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This paper aims at providing an overview of the background, design and initial findings of Psychosis Incident Cohort Outcome Study (PICOS).
PICOS is a large multi-site population-based study on first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients attending public mental health services in the Veneto region (Italy) over a 3-year period. PICOS has a naturalistic longitudinal design and it includes three different modules addressing, respectively, clinical and social variables, genetics and brain imaging. Its primary aims are to characterize FEP patients in terms of clinical, psychological and social presentation, and to investigate the relative weight of clinical, environmental and biological factors (i.e. genetics and brain structure/functioning) in predicting the outcome of FEP.
An in-depth description of the research methodology is given first. Details on recruitment phase and baseline and follow-up evaluations are then provided. Initial findings relating to patients' baseline assessments are also presented. Future planned analyses are outlined.
Both strengths and limitations of PICOS are discussed in the light of issues not addressed in the current literature on FEP. This study aims at making a substantial contribution to research on FEP patients. It is hoped that the research strategies adopted in PICOS will enhance the convergence of methodologies in ongoing and future studies on FEP.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2012 · Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although the etiology of aggression is multifactorial, many studies have associated the Val158Met polymorphism of the COMT with aggression in schizophrenia. This study tests the hypothesis that Met/Met patients display more episodes of aggression and violent behaviour than Val/Val patients in a 6 year follow-up cohort of subjects with schizophrenia in contact with the South-Verona Community-based Mental Health Service. Out of the 141 subjects with an ICD-10 SCAN-confirmed diagnosis of schizophrenia, 115 completed both baseline and follow-up assessments (81.6% of the baseline cohort). Of these, 80 subjects (70%) were genotyped and rated for aggression using the Overt Aggression Scale. Met/Met homozygous patients had higher aggressive behaviour compared to Val/Val homozygous subjects. Antipsychotic dosage, alcohol and drug abuse were taken into account as confounders. The Met/Met genotype of COMT may have an effect on aggressive behaviour in schizophrenia because norepinephrine is less effectively inactivated.
No preview · Article · Mar 2011 · Neuroscience Letters
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Staff burnout is a critical issue for mental healthcare delivery, as it can lead to decreased work performance and, ultimately, to poorer treatment outcomes.
To explore the relative weight of job-related characteristics and perceived organisational factors in predicting burnout in staff working in community-based psychiatric services.
A representative sample of 2000 mental health staff working in the Veneto region, Italy, participated. Burnout and perceived organisational factors were assessed by using the Organizational Checkup Survey.
Overall, high levels of job distress affected nearly two-thirds of the psychiatric staff and one in five staff members suffered from burnout. Psychiatrists and social workers reported the highest levels of burnout, and support workers and psychologists, the lowest. Burnout was mostly predicted by a higher frequency of face-to-face interaction with users, longer tenure in mental healthcare, weak work group cohesion and perceived unfairness.
Improving the workplace atmosphere within psychiatric services should be one of the most important targets in staff burnout prevention strategies. The potential benefits of such programmes may, in turn, have a favourable impact on patient outcomes.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2009 · The British journal of psychiatry: the journal of mental science
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The aims of this study were to measure changes over 3-years in caregiving burden and emotional distress in relatives of people with schizophrenia and to identify factors predicting the levels of caregiving burden.
A cohort of 51 caregivers of patients with schizophrenia attending the South-Verona Community Mental Health Service was assessed over 3-years with the Involvement Evaluation Questionnaire, European Version. Predictors of caregiving burden included both caregivers' and patients' characteristics and patterns of carer-patient interaction.
Baseline levels of family burden were high in worrying and urging domains. Fifty-one per cent of caregivers experienced significant emotional distress. Both overall burden and emotional distress improved. Higher patients' psychopathology, higher numbers of patient-rated needs, patients' lower global functioning and patients' poorer quality of life were found to be related to the severity of family burden. The only significant predictor of caregivers' burden at follow-up was the baseline level of caregivers' burden itself.
A policy addressing the caring burden of informal caregivers beyond patients' symptoms reduction should be considered.
No preview · Article · Dec 2007 · Acta psychiatrica Scandinavica. Supplementum
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is evidence suggesting that Dysbindin (DTNBP1) is a susceptibility gene for schizophrenia in Caucasian, Chinese, and Japanese populations. We sought to determine if dysbindin was associated with schizophrenia and its symptoms in a representative group of schizophrenic patients from a Community-Based Mental Health Service (CMHS) in Verona, Italy. A prevalence cohort of schizophrenic patients (n = 141) was assessed at baseline and then 3 and 6 years later. Eighty patients and 106 healthy controls were genotyped for polymorphisms in dysbindin. We tested if diagnosis, clinical symptoms as measured by the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), and functioning as measured by the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (GAF), were associated with the presence of certain dysbindin polymorphisms. Finally, using the longitudinal clinical data, we tested if patients carrying dysbindin high-risk haplotypes had a more unfavorable longitudinal clinical outcome. A trend towards statistical association (P = 0.058) between schizophrenia and rs2619538 was found. Using GENECOUNTING software, we found that rs2619538-P1583 (P = 0.048), P1320-P1757 (P = 0.034), and rs2619538-P1583-P1578 (P = 0.040) haplotypes occurred more often in cases compared to controls before correction for multiple testing. The rs2619538-P1583 haplotype was more likely to be transmitted to subjects with more severe and persistent psychopathology. These preliminary results are compatible with the view that DTNBP1 is a susceptibility factor for schizophrenia, and is associated with worse psychopathology.
No preview · Article · Jul 2007 · American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B Neuropsychiatric Genetics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Several magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have shown cerebral atrophy in established schizophrenia, although not in all reports. Discrepancies may mostly be due to population and postprocessing differences. Recently, disruption of cortical white matter integrity has also been reported in chronic patients with schizophrenia. In this study we explored tridimensional (3D) cerebral volumes and white matter microstructure in schizophrenia with structural and diffusion magnetic resonance. Twenty-five patients with established schizophrenia and 25 1:1 matched normal controls underwent a session of MRI using a Siemens 1.5T-scanner. 3D brain volume reconstruction was performed with the semi-automatic software Amira (TGS, San Diego, CA), whereas the apparent diffusion coefficients (ADCs) of cortical white matter water molecules were obtained with in-house developed softwares written in MatLab (The Mathworks-Inc., Natick, MA). Compared to controls, patients with schizophrenia had significantly smaller gray matter intracranium and total brain volumes, increased 4th ventricle volumes, and greater temporal and occipital ADCs. Patients treated with typical antipsychotic medication (N = 9) had significantly larger right lateral and 4th ventricles compared to those on atypical antipsychotic drugs. Intracranial volumes significantly inversely correlated with left temporal ADC in patients with schizophrenia. Also, age correlated directly with right, left, and 3rd ventricle volumes and inversely with gray matter intracranium volumes in individuals with schizophrenia. This study confirmed the presence of cortical atrophy in patients with schizophrenia, especially in those on typical antipsychotic drugs, and the existence of white matter disruption. It also suggested that physiological aging effects on brain anatomy may be abnormally pronounced in schizophrenia.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2007 · European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Quality of life is often severely impaired in people with schizophrenia, and adherence to antipsychotic medication has been consistently found to be low in this population. Although there is a considerable amount of evidence on these two variables in schizophrenia research, there is only limited knowledge on how they relate to one another. The aim of this study is to develop a meaningful model of the relationship between quality of life and adherence that includes mediating variables. A multicenter randomized controlled trial recruited 409 subjects in London, Verona, Amsterdam, and Leipzig. Baseline interviews obtained data on adherence, quality of life, and other variables. We used graphical modeling to investigate the relationships between the variables. No direct relation could be discerned between subjective quality of life and adherence to medication. Mediating variables, most importantly symptomatic impairment, global functioning, and medication side effects, were identified by the model. It can be concluded that, when aiming at the improvement of quality of life in people with schizophrenia, variables other than adherence, i.e., symptomatic impairment, global functioning, and medication side effects, should be targeted.
No preview · Article · Nov 2006 · Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Corpus callosum (CC) is the main white matter commissure between the two cerebral hemispheres. Abnormalities of CC have been shown in schizophrenia patients by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies. We here further investigated CC organization with diffusion imaging (DWI) in a sample of schizophrenia patients recruited from the epidemiologically defined catchment area of South Verona, Italy.
Sixty-seven patients with schizophrenia and 70 normal controls were studied. Regions of interests (ROIs), standardized at 5 pixels, were placed in CC on the non-diffusion weighted echoplanar images (b = 0) and were then automatically transferred to the corresponding maps to obtain the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) of water molecules.
ADC measures for all callosal subregions in schizophrenia patients were significantly greater compared to normal controls (ANCOVA, p < 0.05). Positive symptoms significantly correlated with anterior callosal ADC measures (partial correlation analyses, p < 0.05).
These findings support the existence of widespread microstructure disruption of CC in schizophrenia, which may ultimately lead to inter-hemispheric misconnection, and also suggest a specific role of anterior transcallosal disconnectivity in underlying positive symptoms. Future longitudinal MRI studies in high risk and first-episode patients together with neurophysiological tests are indicated to further examine CC anatomical abnormalities and inter-hemispheric transmission in schizophrenia.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2005 · Schizophrenia Research