Carmen Simonsen

Oslo University Hospital, Kristiania (historical), Oslo, Norway

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Publications (26)103.82 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Aim: Lack of insight into illness is frequent in psychotic disorders and seen as part of their primary pathology. The recognition of symptoms as psychotic, and beliefs about treatment alternatives, is also influenced by socio-cultural factors. Here we examined clinical insight into illness and beliefs about psychosis in immigrants in their first episode of psychosis compared to a reference group. Methods: 277 first episode psychosis participants were recruited to this cross-sectional study; 40 first- and 40 second-generation immigrants from Europe, Americas and Oceania (n=37), Asia including Turkey (n=28), or Africa (n=15). The Birchwood Insight Scale was used to measure clinical insight and “The Attitudes and Beliefs about Mental Health Problems”, schizophrenia version to assess socio-cultural beliefs. Results: Immigrants did not differ from the reference sample in clinical insight. After controlling for education level first generation immigrants were less likely to recognize psychotic symptoms (OR 2.9; Wald = 8.977, df 1, p =.003) and viewed hospitalization (OR 5.2; Wald = 20.388, df 1, p =.001) and treatment by a psychiatrist (OR 4.9; Wald = 6.609, df 1, p =.01)) as less beneficial than the reference group. Immigrants from Asia held more alternative explanations (OR 0.3; Wald = 6.567, df 1, p=.010). There were significantly stronger associations between clinical insight and socio-cultural beliefs in the reference group. Conclusions: Socio-cultural beliefs about psychosis in immigrants in first episode psychosis calls for more tailored information to this group, and emphasize the importance of treatment interventions involving both a cultural and personal perspective of insight.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Early Intervention in Psychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: Background: First-episode psychosis (FEP) patients show structural brain abnormalities. Whether the changes are progressive or not remain under debate, and the results from longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies are mixed. We investigated if FEP patients showed a different pattern of regional brain structural change over a 1-year period compared with healthy controls, and if putative changes correlated with clinical characteristics and outcome. Method: MRIs of 79 FEP patients [SCID-I-verified diagnoses: schizophrenia, psychotic bipolar disorder, or other psychoses, mean age 27.6 (s.d. = 7.7) years, 66% male] and 82 healthy controls [age 29.3 (s.d. = 7.2) years, 66% male] were acquired from the same 1.5 T scanner at baseline and 1-year follow-up as part of the Thematically Organized Psychosis (TOP) study, Oslo, Norway. Scans were automatically processed with the longitudinal stream in FreeSurfer that creates an unbiased within-subject template image. General linear models were used to analyse longitudinal change in a wide range of subcortical volumes and detailed thickness and surface area estimates across the entire cortex, and associations with clinical characteristics. Results: FEP patients and controls did not differ significantly in annual percentage change in cortical thickness or area in any cortical region, or in any of the subcortical structures after adjustment for multiple comparisons. Within the FEP group, duration of untreated psychosis, age at illness onset, antipsychotic medication use and remission at follow-up were not related to longitudinal brain change. Conclusions: We found no significant longitudinal brain changes over a 1-year period in FEP patients. Our results do not support early progressive brain changes in psychotic disorders.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Psychological Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: Cognitive impairment is a core feature of psychosis spectrum disorders. Antipsychotics have at best small positive effects on cognitive performance. There is a lack of knowledge regarding the effects of antidepressants on cognitive functioning in these disorders. In the present study cognitive performance was investigated in relation to serum levels of antidepressants in persons with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Serum concentrations of escitalopram, citalopram and venlafaxine plus O-desmethylvenlafaxine were measured in a total of 187 participants with bipolar disorder (N=74) or schizophrenia spectrum disorders (N=113), and analyzed in relation to neuropsychological tests performance of verbal learning, verbal memory, attention, working memory, executive functioning and processing speed. Analyses were performed using linear regression adjusting for a range of confounders. There was a significant positive association between the serum level of venlafaxine plus O-desmethylvenlafaxine and verbal memory (immediate recall: Logical Memory Test immediate recall [p=0.015], and long term delayed recall: Logical Memory Test delayed recall [p=0.011]). No significant associations were seen between citalopram or escitalopram and verbal memory. There were no significant associations between the tested antidepressants and verbal learning, attention, working memory, executive functioning, or processing speed. Venlafaxine seem to be associated with better verbal memory in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This suggests a possible beneficial role of certain antidepressants on cognitive dysfunction, which may have clinical implications and provide insight into underlying pathophysiology. However, the current findings should be replicated in independent samples.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Schizophrenia Research

  • No preview · Article · Mar 2015 · European Psychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: An association between bipolar disorder and cognitive impairment has repeatedly been described, even for euthymic patients. Findings are inconsistent both across primary studies and previous meta-analyses. This study reanalysed 31 primary data sets as a single large sample (N = 2876) to provide a more definitive view. Method: Individual patient and control data were obtained from original authors for 11 measures from four common neuropsychological tests: California or Rey Verbal Learning Task (VLT), Trail Making Test (TMT), Digit Span and/or Wisconsin Card Sorting Task. Results: Impairments were found for all 11 test-measures in the bipolar group after controlling for age, IQ and gender (Ps ≤ 0.001, E.S. = 0.26-0.63). Residual mood symptoms confound this result but cannot account for the effect sizes found. Impairments also seem unrelated to drug treatment. Some test-measures were weakly correlated with illness severity measures suggesting that some impairments may track illness progression. Conclusion: This reanalysis supports VLT, Digit Span and TMT as robust measures of cognitive impairments in bipolar disorder patients. The heterogeneity of some test results explains previous differences in meta-analyses. Better controlling for confounds suggests deficits may be smaller than previously reported but should be tracked longitudinally across illness progression and treatment.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2013 · Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Evidence of associations between neurocognitive function and cannabis use in schizophrenia is inconclusive. However, direct measures of cannabis intake and premorbid function are rarely explored in this context. We investigated the relation between cannabis use, determined by its presence in urine, and neurocognitive functioning in schizophrenia controlling for the potential bias of premorbid functioning. Methods: Naturalistic study of 364 patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorder from catchment areas in Oslo, Norway. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were used to assess the relationship between cannabis in urine and measures of neurocognitive functioning, with adjustment for confounders, including premorbid functioning. Results: Cannabis was detected in the urine of 21 patients, who had significant dysfunction in several neurocognitive domains independent of a current diagnosis of cannabis abuse. However, level of premorbid functioning explained the associations for all measures. Conclusion: Differences in premorbid functioning may explain apparent differences in neurocognitive function between schizophrenia spectrum patients using cannabis or not. The findings suggest that illness-related traits present early in life can affect both later cannabis use and neurocognition, probably by complex mechanisms.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2012 · Schizophrenia Research
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: To investigate potential risk factors for medication non-adherence in patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Method: A total of 255 patients underwent clinical assessments, neurocognitive testing and blood sampling. The patients were divided into groups of 'No', 'Partial' or 'Full' adherence. Relationships to different risk factors were analyzed. Results: In schizophrenia, use of illicit substances, alcohol and poor insight were related to worse adherence. Schizophrenia patients with No adherence did better on tests of executive functioning, verbal learning and memory and had higher IQ than patients with better adherence. There were higher levels of autonomic side effects in the non-adherence group, but body mass index was lower in the Partial adherence group than in the Full adherence group. In the bipolar disorder patients, there was an association between the use of illicit substances and alcohol and poor adherence. We found no relationship between adherence behavior and neurocognition in the bipolar disorder group. Conclusion: Substance use is an important risk factor for non-adherence in patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Poor insight is also a risk factor in schizophrenia. The results suggest that cognitive dysfunction is not a risk factor for non-adherence in these diagnostic groups.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2012 · Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica
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    ABSTRACT: Cognitive dysfunction in bipolar disorder (BD) is well established in the literature; however, there are few studies of neurocognition in patients early in the course of the illness. In this study we compare neurocognitive function in a cohort of first-contact mania patients with a healthy control group matched for age, gender, and education. Patients with a first manic episode (FM) (n = 34) or previous untreated manic episodes (PM) (n = 21) were neuropsychologically tested following their first treated manic episode. A total of 110 matched healthy control comparison subjects were also tested. The following cognitive domains were evaluated: verbal and visual learning and memory, attention, processing speed, executive functioning, and IQ. Results were corrected for speed of processing differences and were compared with previously reported results for multiple-episode BD patients. BD patients early in their disease course showed impairments in psychomotor speed, attention, learning and memory, executive functioning, and IQ. When controlling for speed of processing, measures of visuoconstructive reasoning and motor dexterity remained statistically significant. Eighteen percent of FM and 16% of PM patients were found to have clinically significant neurocognitive impairment. No significant relationship between clinical symptoms and neurocognition was found. The first-contact mania patients studied were found to have smaller neurocognitive deficits compared to multiple-episode patients in previous studies. Neurocognitive dysfunction is present in early BD and is clinically significant for a proportion of patients. Our findings also suggest that neurocognitive dysfunction may increase with illness progression.
    Full-text · Article · May 2012 · Bipolar Disorders
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    ABSTRACT: To investigate sex differences in neurocognition and social functioning in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and the possible role of sex as a moderator of this relationship. Participants with schizophrenia (60 women/94 men), bipolar I disorder (55 women/51 men), and healthy controls (158 women/182 men) were assessed with an extensive neuropsychological test battery and a social functioning questionnaire. We found significant main effects of sex for neuropsychological tests (p < .001, η² = 0.10) and social functioning (p < .001, η² = 0.05), with men scoring below women. Women performed better than men for all neuropsychological tests (except attention and working memory). Both clinical groups performed below healthy controls for all neuropsychological tests (except attention). Post hoc comparisons of persons with schizophrenia and healthy controls yielded significant interaction effects (p < .05) for three neuropsychological tests (California Verbal Learning Test II [CVLT-II], Color-Word Interference, and Interference/Switching), with men with schizophrenia being disproportionally disadvantaged compared with their female counterparts. Regression analyses investigating sex as a moderator between neurocognition and social functioning showed that neurocognition predicted social functioning in schizophrenia, whereas sex predicted social functioning in healthy controls. Sex was not a moderator in any of the three groups. This study is the first to find neurocognitive sex differences for bipolar disorder and replicated previous findings for schizophrenia. The data did not support the hypothesis that sex is a moderator between neurocognition and social functioning. Clinical implications include the use of different cognitive remediation strategies based on sex.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2011 · Neuropsychology
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to investigate whether suicide attempters had higher IQ, better executive functioning, or were more impulsive as measured by neuropsychological tests than non-attempters in a group of patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. One hundred seventy-four patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders were assessed with a clinical interview for diagnosis, suicidality, symptoms and function, and underwent an extensive neurocognitive test battery. There were no statistically significant differences in any neurocognitive domains between lifetime suicide attempters and non-attempters, or between patients with different rates of suicide attempts. Currently suicidal patients were significantly more impulsive (had poorer inhibitory control) than currently non-suicidal patients, but this difference was mediated by positive psychotic symptoms. The findings indicate that among patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, there are no significant differences in IQ or neurocognitive functioning between suicide attempters and non-attempters.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2011 · Comprehensive psychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: Patients with schizophrenia exhibit distorted beliefs and experiences, and their own evaluation of this is labeled cognitive insight. We examined the relationship between cognitive insight and neurocognition, as well as the contribution of neurocognition in explaining cognitive insight. Clinically characterized patients with schizophrenia (n=102) were assessed with a measure of cognitive insight, Beck Cognitive Insight Scale (BCIS) and a neuropsychological test battery. The contribution of neurocognition to the explained variance in BCIS components self-reflectiveness (i.e. objectivity and reflectiveness) and self-certainty (i.e. overconfidence in own beliefs) was examined controlling for current affective and psychotic symptoms. A significant negative correlation was found between self-certainty and verbal learning, whereas no associations were found between self-reflectiveness and any of the neuropsychological tests. Verbal learning was added significantly to the explained variance in self-certainty after controlling for potential confounders. High self-certainty was associated with poor verbal learning. This suggests that overconfidence in own beliefs is associated with cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2011 · Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: Studies of social functioning in severe mental disorders are disadvantaged by the multitude of different assessment instruments in use. The present study aims to establish reliability and validity of the Norwegian version of the Social Functioning Scale (SFS) and to examine social functioning in bipolar disorder (BD) compared to schizophrenia (SZ) and healthy controls (HC). SFS, a 76 item questionnaire divided into seven subscales measuring various aspects of daily life functioning, was administered to samples diagnosed with BD (n = 100) or SZ (n = 100) and to HC (n = 100), recruited from the ongoing Tematic Organized Psychosis (TOP) study. Reliability analyses prove adequate psychometric properties both for the composite full scale score (α: 0.81) as well as for the seven subscale scores (α: 0.60-0.88). Principal component analysis of the subscales confirms a one-component structure, explaining 59% of the variance. Although significantly correlated with the Global Assessment of Functioning, our results indicate that the SFS measures different aspects of social functioning, is less influenced by demographic and clinical characteristics, but differentiates at the same time significantly BD from SZ. Thus, SFS adds valuable information as a supplement to standard clinician-rated assessment tools of social functioning, suited both for research and clinical work.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2010 · Scandinavian Journal of Psychology
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    ABSTRACT: In line with a dimensional approach to psychopathology, we examined whether psychosocial function and its relationship to neurocognition and clinical symptoms differ across schizophrenia and bipolar disorder subgroups with and without a history of affective or psychotic episodes. From the TOP study, a heterogeneous sample of individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders without (n = 60) and with a history of affective episodes (n = 54); individuals with bipolar spectrum disorders with (n = 64) and without a history of psychosis (n = 56) and healthy controls (n = 268) participated. Psychosocial functioning was measured with the Social Functioning Scale (self-rated) and the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (clinician-rated), neurocognition with a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery, and symptoms with Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology, Young Mania Rating Scale, and Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale. Clinician-rated functioning was poorer in schizophrenia groups than in bipolar groups, but self-rated functioning was similar across all clinical groups and poorer than in controls. Neurocognition and current clinical symptoms were associated with psychosocial function in bivariate analyses, but current symptoms had a greater independent contribution to functioning than neurocognition across clinical groups in multivariate analyses. Despite differences in neurocognition and psychosocial function, groups showed the same pattern in prediction of functioning irrespective of DSM-IV or clinical definition.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2010 · Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
  • O. A. Andreassen · C. Simonsen · K. Sundet

    No preview · Article · Aug 2010 · European Neuropsychopharmacology
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    ABSTRACT: Cannabis use is associated with altered neurocognitive functioning in severe mental disorders, but data are still inconclusive and there are no studies of bipolar disorder. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between cannabis use and neurocognition in bipolar disorder compared with schizophrenia in a naturalistic setting. A total of 133 patients with bipolar disorder and 140 patients with schizophrenia underwent neuropsychological assessments and clinical characterization including measures of substance use. Relationships between cannabis users and neurocognitive function were explored in the two diagnostic groups. Possible interactions between diagnosis and cannabis use were investigated, and findings were controlled for possible confounders. In bipolar disorder subjects, cannabis use was associated with better neurocognitive function, but the opposite was the case for the schizophrenia subjects. There was a statistically significant interaction effect of diagnosis and cannabis use on focused attention (p=0.019), executive functioning (verbal fluency--set shifting) (p=0.009), logical memory-learning (p=0.007) and on logical memory-recall (p=0.004). These differences in neurocognitive function could not be explained by putative confounders. The findings suggest that cannabis use may be related to improved neurocognition in bipolar disorder and compromised neurocognition in schizophrenia. The results need to be replicated in independent samples, and may suggest different underlying disease mechanisms in the two disorders.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2009 · Psychological Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: Neurocognitive dysfunction is milder in bipolar disorders than in schizophrenia spectrum disorders, supporting a dimensional approach to severe mental disorders. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of lifetime history of psychosis for neurocognitive functioning across these disorders. We asked whether neurocognitive dysfunction in bipolar and schizophrenia spectrum disorders depends more on history of psychosis than diagnostic category or subtype. A sample of individuals with schizophrenia (n=102), schizoaffective disorder (n=27), and bipolar disorder (I or II) with history of psychosis (n=75) and without history of psychosis (n=61) and healthy controls (n=280), from a large ongoing study on severe mental disorder, were included. Neurocognitive function was measured with a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery. Compared with controls, all 3 groups with a history of psychosis performed poorer across neurocognitive measures, while the bipolar group without a history of psychosis was only impaired on a measure of processing speed. The groups with a history of psychosis did not differ from each other but performed poorer than the group without a history of psychosis on a number of neurocognitive measures. These neurocognitive group differences were of a magnitude expected to have clinical significance. In the bipolar sample, history of psychosis explained more of the neurocognitive variance than bipolar diagnostic subtype. Our findings suggest that neurocognitive dysfunction in bipolar and schizophrenia spectrum disorders is determined more by history of psychosis than by Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition) diagnostic category or subtype, supporting a more dimensional approach in future diagnostic systems.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2009 · Schizophrenia Bulletin
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    ABSTRACT: Learning potential, a dynamic multi-administration approach to assessment, is claimed to predict functional outcome in schizophrenia better than traditional single-administration neuropsychological tests. This study investigates the relation between learning potential and clinical and demographic variables, social functioning and neuropsychological abilities in a sample of 30 participants with schizophrenia with a mean IQ score within the normal range (mean Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) IQ=106). Two Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) based methods for assessing learning potential are compared. The dimensional approach (calculation of gain scores following training) identified one aspect of executive functioning (set shifting) to be related to learning potential. Associations with other neuropsychological tests and social functioning were however limited. The categorical approach (separating high-achievers from learners and non-learners) was not sensitive within this normal IQ sample. Although there seems to be a relation between learning potential and some aspects of executive functioning, the two existing WCST methods should be used with caution when assessing learning potential in individuals with schizophrenia who have IQ scores within the normal range.
    Full-text · Article · May 2009 · Nordic journal of psychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: The underlying nature of negative symptoms in psychosis is poorly understood. Investigation of the relationship between the different negative subsymptoms and neurocognition is one approach to understand more of the underlying nature. Apathy, one of the subsymptoms, is also a common symptom in other brain disorders. Its association with neurocognition, in particular executive functioning, is well documented in other brain disorders, but only studied in one former study of chronic patients with schizophrenia. This study investigates the association between apathy and neurocognitive functioning in patients with first episode psychosis (FEP), with the hypothesis that apathy is more associated with tests representing executive function than tests representing other neurocognitive domains. Seventy-one FEP patients were assessed with an extensive neuropsychological test battery. Level of apathy was assessed with the abridged Apathy Evaluation Scale (AES-C-Apathy). AES-C-Apathy was only significantly associated with tests from the executive domain [Semantic fluency (r = .37, p < .01), Phonetic fluency (r = .25, p < .05)] and working memory [Letter Number Span (r = .26; p =< .05)]; the first two representing the initiation part of executive function. Confounding variables such as co-occuring depression, positive symptoms or use of antipsychotic medication did not significantly influence the results. We replicated in FEP patients the relationship between apathy and executive functioning reported in another study for chronic patients with schizophrenia. We also found apathy in FEP to have the same relationship to executive functioning, as assessed with the Verbal fluency tests, as that reported in patients with other brain disorders, pointing to a common underlying nature of this symptom across disorders.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2009 · BMC Psychiatry
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationship between the symptoms delusions and hallucinations measured by the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale and cognitive insight as assessed with the Beck Cognitive Insight Scale (BCIS) in patients with schizophrenia. The BCIS is based on 2 subscales, self-reflectiveness and self-certainty, measuring objectivity, reflectiveness and openness to feedback, and mental flexibility. Overall cognitive insight was defined as the difference between self-reflectiveness and self-certainty. This cross-sectional study of 143 patients showed that the occurrence of delusions is associated with low self-reflectiveness and high self-certainty, reflecting low cognitive insight. Hallucinations in the absence of delusions were associated with high self-reflectiveness and low self-certainty, possibly reflecting more open-mindedness and higher cognitive insight. The present findings suggest that delusions are associated with low cognitive insight, whereas solitary hallucinations may be associated with high cognitive insight.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2009 · Schizophrenia Bulletin
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    ABSTRACT: This study examined the potential of using the regular administration of a common neuropsychological test, the CVLT-II, to assess learning potential in schizophrenia. Based on List A trial 1 performance and the learning slope, a schizophrenia sample was divided into three learning potential groups (non-learners, learners and high-achievers) that differed in the use of learning strategies. High-achievers utilized more semantic clustering than learners and non-learners, and non-learners were less consistent in words recalled than the other two groups. This standard administration approach is a promising, time-saving alternative to the modified tests of learning potential used so far.
    No preview · Article · May 2008 · Scandinavian Journal of Psychology

Publication Stats

811 Citations
103.82 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2009-2015
    • Oslo University Hospital
      • Division of Mental Health and Addiction
      Kristiania (historical), Oslo, Norway
  • 2007-2015
    • University of Oslo
      • • Department of Psychology
      • • Institute of Clinical Medicine
      Kristiania (historical), Oslo, Norway
  • 2010
    • Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich
      München, Bavaria, Germany