2021 Mental Health Conference; 4th Annual Integrative Psychiatry Conference | June 4th, 2021

McGill Graduate Student Association of Psychiatry (GSAP)

Published online: 19 July 2021

COVID-19 pandemic related stress: the mediating effect of various forms of social support.

Lara Kojok1,2; Ram Prasad Sapkota, PhD1,2; Alain Brunet, PhD1,2

1McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
2Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal, QC, Canada

Corresponding author: Lara Kojok, email: lara.kojok@mail.mcgill.ca


Preventative measures implemented by governments to decrease the spread of the COVID-19 have led to adverse mental health outcomes. Previous studies have suggested that social support (SS) may buffer the effects of COVID-19 related stress. However, most of these studies looked at specific populations and only addressed one or two forms of SS (e.g., perceived support from friends or family). Thus, there is a paucity of studies examining the mediating effect of SS in the relationship between COVID-19 stressors and psychological distress, as well as the relative impact of various forms of SS in the general population. We aim to examine whether SS mediates the effects of COVID-19 stressors on psychological distress. Further, we aim to investigate the role of specific forms of SS in this association. Between April and May 2020, 5 913 adults from Canada, France, Italy, the U.S. and China took part in a web-based cross-sectional survey related to their experience with the COVID-19. Measures of exposure to COVID-19 stressors, SS and psychological distress were administered. Four SS variables were considered: help and emotional support from friends, family, a professional and support through social media. Path analysis was used to investigate our hypotheses. We expect to find that SS mediates the effect of COVID-19 stressors on psychological distress. Additionally, we expect that SS from friends, family and a professional will have the most significant impact in buffering the effects of COVID-19 stressors on psychological distress. Our findings will provide insights into the kind of support that is beneficial amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Identifying factors that predict positive and negative adaptation to confinement in Canadian families during the COVID-19 pandemic

Philippe Hwang1, Lara Ipekian1, Lily Hechtman1,2

1Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, QC, Canada
2McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada

Corresponding author: Philippe Hwang, email: philippe.hwang@mail.mcgill.ca


Introduction and objective: Research conducted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed high prevalence rates of depression, anxiety and stress in the general public. Various risk factors were identified for increased psychological distress in adults including gender, infection risk, socioeconomic status and social isolation. Our objective was to identify and estimate prevalence rates of factors that may impact the mental health of Canadian families.

Methods: Participants were 254 Canadian families completing a self-report online survey assessing family socio-demographic factors, individual child and parent mental health symptoms (anxiety and depression), and overall family functioning between 2 and 3 months following the initiation of COVID-19 emergency responses in Canada. Generalized linear models and logistic regression were used to model socio-demographic impacts on outcome variables of individual anxious and depressive symptoms, and overall family functioning.

Results: Problematic family functioning was found in 78.5% of families with a high proportion of parents and children reporting above-threshold symptoms of anxiety (62.9% and 54.6%) and depression (73.4% and 70.7%). Logistic regression modelling found that mental health difficulties were higher in female parents, families with parents aged <45, a child aged >5 years, household income <$100,000, reduced work hours, or pre-existing psychiatric conditions in parents.

Discussion and implications: These findings demonstrate high rates of above-threshold symptoms of anxiety, depression, and poor family functioning in the context of COVID-19 pandemic confinement measures. Our study identifies characteristics of at-risk Canadian families and provides a basis for targeting interventions to mediate negative effects of quarantining.

Structural Brain Correlates of Cognitive Function in Schizophrenia: A Meta-Analysis

Marianne Khalil1,2 Philippine Hollander2,3 Delphine Rauche-Chéné 1,2,4,5 Martin Lepage1,2 Katie M. Lavigne1,2,6

1Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
2Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands.
4Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Reims, EPSM Marne, Reims, France.
5Cognition, Health, and Society Laboratory (EA 6291), University of Reims, Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France
6Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Corresponding author: Katie M. Lavigne, email: katie.lavigne@mcgill.ca


Schizophrenia is characterized by cognitive impairments and widespread structural brain alterations (e.g., decreased volume, thickness, surface area). Brain structure-cognition associations have been extensively studied in schizophrenia, typically involving individual cognitive domains or brain regions of interest. Findings in overlapping and diffuse brain regions may point to structural alterations in large-scale brain networks. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis examining whether brain structure-cognition associations can be explained in terms of biologically meaningful brain networks. Of 7,621 screened articles, 88 were included in a series of meta-analyses assessing publication bias, heterogeneity, and study quality. Significant associations were found between overall brain structure and eight cognitive domains (speed of processing, attention/vigilance, working/verbal/visual memory, executive function, social cognition, and verbal fluency). Brain structure within functionally defined networks (default, dorsal/ventral attention, frontoparietal, limbic, somatosensory, visual) and external structures (amygdala, hippocampus and cerebellum) typically showed associations with conceptually related cognitive domains, with higher-level domains (e.g., executive function, social cognition) associated with more networks. These findings suggest brain structure-cognition associations in schizophrenia may follow network architecture.

Higher trait mindfulness is associated with less amyloid, tau, and cognitive decline in preclinical Alzheimer's disease

Cherie Strikwerda-Brown1,2, Hazal Ozlen1, Alexa Pichet Binette1,2,3, Marianne Chapleau1, Sylvia Villeneuve1,2,3,4,5, for the Presymptomatic Evaluation of Novel or Experimental Treatments for Alzheimer Disease (PREVENT-AD) Research Group

1Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Centre for Studies on the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease (StoP-AD), Montreal, Quebec, Canada
2Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3McGill Centre for Integrative Neuroscience, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Corresponding author: Cherie Strikwerda-Brown, email: cherie.strikwerda-brown@mail.mcgill.ca


Introduction: Mindfulness refers to the ability to engage in non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. This psychological trait is gaining increased attention in recent years, given its association with an array of health benefits. The potential protective benefit of mindfulness on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) remains to be explored. Objective: Examine the relationship between mindfulness and AD markers in preclinical AD.

Methods: 261 cognitively normal older adults, including 124 with amyloid and tau-PET scans, were included from the PREVENT-AD cohort. All participants completed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, and a neuropsychological battery across multiple time points. Multivariate partial least squares analyses were used to examine relationships between different facets of mindfulness (Observing, Describing, Acting with Awareness, Nonjudgment, and Nonreactivity), AD pathology, and longitudinal cognitive decline.

Results: Higher levels of mindful nonjudgment and nonreactivity were associated with less amyloid deposition in temporoparietal and frontal cortices. Higher levels of mindful acting with awareness, describing, nonjudgment and nonreactivity were related to less tau deposition in medial and lateral temporal regions. Higher levels of mindful nonjudgment and describing were associated with less decline on measures of global cognition, attention, immediate and delayed memory, and visuospatial function. Relationships remained significant when additional psychological and demographic covariates were included in analyses.

Implications: Higher trait mindfulness was associated with less amyloid and tau pathology and cognitive decline in the preclinical phase of AD. These findings suggest that mindfulness may represent an independent psychological protective factor for AD, and highlight the potential utility of mindfulness interventions in early AD.

Fostering Agency and Enhancing Well-Being for Asylum-Seeking Mothers at a Community-Based Program: A Mixed-Method Study

Yufei (Mandy) Wu, BA1, Rachel Kronick, MD, FRCPC, MSc1,2

1Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
2Centre for Child Development and Mental Health, Jewish General Hospital, Lady Davis Institute, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

Corresponding author: Yufei (Mandy) Wu, email: yufei.wu3@mail.mcgill.ca


Since 2016, the number of asylum seekers resettling in Quebec has increased dramatically. Asylum seekers, women in particular, are at heightened risk of psychological distress and poor mental well-being because of their precarious legal status, financial insecurity, and social isolation. This presentation will communicate the development of a longitudinal mixed-methods study that aims to understand the lived experiences of asylum-seeking mothers in Québec through their participation in a community-based psychosocial support program. Specifically, this study focuses on understanding how asylum-seeking mothers exert their agency during the resettlement process; and how attending a community-based support program shapes their self-efficacy and well-being. Self-efficacy, that is, people’s beliefs in their capabilities to exercise control over their own functioning and over events that affect their lives, has been shown to be a key predictor of mental health. The study uses questionnaires to 1) measure the relationship between self-efficacy and well-being; 2) measure whether participation in the program correlates with increased self-efficacy and enhanced well-being, and finally, 3) assess how asylum seekers’ capacities to adapt to post-migratory stressors correspond with their level of well-being and self-efficacy. Finally, 4) interviews are conducted to examine how asylum-seeking mothers exert their agency to adaptively cope with stress. By exploring how community-based programs may promote asylum seekers’ mental health through the lens of self-efficacy and adaptive coping, this study will offer insight to the capacity of asylum-seeking women as agentic beings and will provide evidence to inform policies and development of interventions to improve well-being in this vulnerabalized population. The communication will present the context and theoretical framework of the study, methods that are going to be employed for the data collection, and the challenges that are faced due to the pandemic.

A podcast series in response to COVID-19 challenges: reflections from a co-created podcast with Indigenous community partners in Canada

Caroline Bec, MSc1,2, Nicole D’souza, PhD1,2, Tristan Supino1,2, Michelle Kehoe2, Laurence J Kirmayer, MD1,2

1Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
2Listening to Another to Grow Strong program, Culture and Mental Health Research Unit, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, QC, Canada

Corresponding author: Caroline Bec caroline.bec@mail.mcgill.ca


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented barriers for mental health promotion programs like the Listening to One Another to Grow Strong (LTOA), a culturally adapted family-centred program for Indigenous families. Due to restrictions, Indigenous community partners across Canada have been unable to deliver the LTOA program. With programming on pause, the LTOA team identified ways to maintain and expand the LTOA community of practice and, in collaboration with community partners, we created a podcast series. Aims: To reflect on the ability of the podcast series to continue conversations between community partners, facilitators and Elders involved in LTOA implementation and delivery and the research team that supported the process. To provide insights on the processes behind co-creation in the Listening to One Another podcast series.

Methods: We conducted participant observation to examine the process of podcast development and delivery. Observations were conducted during online meetings.

Findings, Discussion and Implications: The podcast provided a vehicle for collaborative knowledge translation and multi-directional conversation among researchers, Indigenous community partners and the larger community-based practitioner community. The co-creation of the podcast series strengthened existing connections (between partners and LTOA team), creates new relationships (between community guests and LTOA team), and provided the LTOA team with insights into local realities and how to better support community needs. However, co-creation takes time. A back-and-forth collaborative effort between LTOA team members and partners is needed to develop podcast themes, storyline, review, and dissemination. Commitment and flexibility when co-creating a podcast series with Indigenous community partners is paramount.

Perceptions about qualities of treatment teams in two early intervention services for psychosis: A cross-cultural examination involving Chennai, India and Montreal, Canada

Helen Martin1,2, Aarati Taksal2, Nicole Pawliuk2, Greeshma Mohan3, Thara Rangaswamy3, Padmavathi Ramachandran3, Mary Anne Levasseur#, Ashok Malla1,2, Srividya Iyer1,2

1Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
2Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal, QC, Canada
3Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF), Chennai, India
#Family partner with lived experience

Corresponding author: Helen Martin, email: helen.martin2@mail.mcgill.ca


Background: Globally, guidelines for early intervention services for psychosis (EIS) consistently recommend that treating teams support their users (clients and their families). Some supportive behaviors of treating teams include listening to clients/families, offering suggestions, providing referrals to relevant resources, and seeking their opinion regarding treatment. These Perceptions About Treatment Team(s) (PATT) reflect and enable the formation of strong therapeutic alliance between the treatment teams and EIS users. Because they can influence key outcomes like service engagement and medication adherence, it is important to study PATT among service users and families and how they evolve over the course of treatment. While this topic has received some (albeit limited) attention in EIS in high-income countries, they have not yet been studied in EIS in low- and middle-income countries, where factors such as the stronger involvement of families in treatment and greater community orientation of services may influence such perceptions. Accordingly, our study focused on PATT among service users and family members in two early intervention services for psychosis in Chennai, India and Montreal, Canada and examined if PATT are different between these two contexts and change over a two-year course of follow-up.

Method: Data was collected from service users (Chennai = 65; Montreal=65) and family members (Chennai =37; Montreal=37) between 2012‐18 on 9 PATT self‐report items at 3 time points (baseline, Month 12, Month 24) rated on a 7‐point Likert scale ranging from 1 strongly disagree to 7 strongly agree. A repeated measures analysis of variance was computed to examine the main effects of time, site (Chennai versus Montreal), and the interaction effect of time* site for the service user and family samples separately. Data were analyzed using SPSS 22 for Windows.

Results: Across sites and stakeholder groups, ratings generally were in the 5-7 (“agree”) range, rather than 1-3 (“disagree”) range. Preliminary results suggests that there was no main effect of site on the PATT for the service user group; however, there was a main effect of site on PATT for the family group. Service users in Chennai and Montreal felt equally supported by their treating teams but families in Chennai felt significantly more supported than their Montreal counterparts. There was no main effect of time on PATT for the service user and family groups. There was no interaction effect of time and site for the service user and family groups.

Conclusion and implication for practice: This is the first study to assess the longitudinal pattern of PATT in two early intervention services across two distinct sociocultural and income contexts. Overall, both family and service user groups perceived being supported by their treating teams indicating that both sites prioritized engagement and alliance as per the philosophy of EIS for psychosis. PATT did not vary with time. Thus, it is important that treating teams display supportive behaviours towards families and service users early on in treatment. That families in India reported greater perceived support may both reflect and motivate their higher levels of involvement in treatment. Various factors may underlie these phenomena of higher levels of familial involvement and perceived support from treating teams in India– value systems where families (rather than individuals) are seen as meaningful units of society, perceived sense of duty towards ill family members, and higher levels of trust and respect for authority.

Eugen Bleuler’s Concept of Schizophrenia Applied to a Hispanic American Diaspora Population from Montreal Living with Schizophrenia/Schizoaffective Disorder

Anne-Sophie Leroux, MA1, Danielle Groleau, PhD1,2,3, G. Eric Jarvis, MD1,2,3

1McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
2Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, QC, Canada
3Lady Davis Institute, Montreal, QC, Canada

Corresponding author: Anne-Sophie Leroux, email: anne-sophie.leroux2@mail.mcgill.ca


The objective of this research is twofold: to give a voice to patients belonging to the Hispanic American diaspora community from Montreal living with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, and to learn who these individuals are and what needs they have. Studying this part of the Hispanic community would contribute to filling the gaps in the knowledge we have of this population, as well as allow for the development of adequate and adapted clinical services. The conceptual approach aims to delve into the phenomenology of the participant and understand the schizophrenia/schizoaffective symptomatology that interferes with the sense of self. The expected results for this study are a high level of reflexivity from the participants, which should enable the researcher to observe the psychiatric symptomatology with which these individuals are dealing. This presentation will attempt to address the implications of this research in regards to Eugen Bleuler’s (1857-1939) concept of schizophrenia, and the important relationship and conceptual compatibility with the phenomenological work done by Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). The research will look qualitatively at the concept of self in Hispanic American diaspora patients from Montreal who live with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Individual interviews (using the McGill Illness Narrative Interview (MINI)) and group interviews will be conducted, recorded, transcribed verbatim, coded, and analyzed. There will be 3 forms of coding: one thematic and two conceptual, each focusing on phenomenology and Bleuler’s concept of schizophrenia.

Towards a Comprehensive Prediction Model of Perinatal Mental Health 

Min Ju You1, Irina Pokhvisneva2, Sachin Patel2, Omar Khedr2, Michael Meaney1,2,3, and Kieran J. O’Donnell1,2

1Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
2Ludmer Center for Neuroinformatics and Mental Health, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
3Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Singapore, Singapore
4Yale Child Study Center and the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

Corresponding author: Min Ju You, email: minju.you@mail.mcgill.ca


Background: Perinatal mental illnesses affect approximately 1 out of 5 women in Canada, with postpartum depression the most common complication of pregnancy, affecting 1 out of 10 women. In this study, we consider the relevant environmental and biological risk factors of perinatal depression and anxiety together to build a comprehensive model of perinatal mental health.

Methods: We examined the relationship between environmental factors and perinatal mood in a large prospective cohort from the United Kingdom: the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC, N=15242). Women provided detailed assessments of anxiety and depression symptoms at 18 and 32 weeks of pregnancy and at 8 week and 8 months postpartum. Linear regression models of ‘environmental’ risk models for maternal depressive or anxiety symptoms included maternal education, history of sexual abuse, age at delivery, socioeconomic status, stressful events around pregnancy, and social support. In 6824 women with paired environmental and genetic data, we integrated polygenic risk scores for psychiatric disorders (PRS: a summary measure of genetic risk for a given phenotype) within the ‘environmental’ risk model to consider both environmental and biological risk factors.

Results: An ‘environmental’ risk model for maternal depression/anxiety in the ALSPAC cohort including prenatal social support explained 12.7-23.7% of the variance in depressive symptoms and 13.4-20.5% of the variance in anxiety symptoms. PRS for depressive symptoms additionally explained less than 1% of the variance.

Conclusions: These findings highlight the importance of prenatal social support as well as the necessity to prevent sexual abuse to promote maternal perinatal mental health. Funding: This research was made possible thanks to the funding from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and Fonds de recherche du Québec, awarded to the Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives initiative at McGill University.

Keywords: Perinatal, Depression, Anxiety, Social Support, History of Sexual Abuse, Polygenic Risk Score.

Access to mental health services for people with chronic pain: A rapid review 

Jennifer Cohen-Reyes1,2, Caroline Robitaille2,3, Michel Perreault1,2

1Douglas Hospital Research Centre, Montreal, QC, Canada
2Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
3Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada

Corresponding author: Jennifer Cohen-Reyes, email: jennifer.cohen2@mail.mcgill.ca


Chronic pain is an important global public health problem, and it is often accompanied by mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and opioid use disorder. Mental health services can help manage pain and mental health problems. However, little is known about the quality of the access to mental health services for this population. For this reason, the present review aims to identify and summarize the barriers and facilitators to access mental health services encountered by people living with chronic pain. Original study articles were searched in the databases Scopus and PsychInfo using pertinent keywords. An interrater agreement was carried out to identify relevant articles. In total, 10 study articles were identified out of 295. Main access barriers identified were associated to service costs, service availability, patient and healthcare provider beliefs about mental health services, and to the limited available information about services. The main facilitators identified were associated to costs reduction, service availability, and to raising public awareness about the positive impacts of mental health services for the management of chronic pain. Other potential strategies to address the perceived access barriers are discussed. Better adapted mental health services that address perceived access barriers could contribute to improving mental health and pain outcomes for this population, as well as to reducing negative consequences associated to the use of opioid medications for chronic pain.

Newcomer youth wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic: Contributions of a community-based welcome program in Montreal

Emilia Gonzalez1

1McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Corresponding author: Emilia Gonzalez, email: emilia.gonzalez@mail.mcgill.ca


Introduction: Youth make up a large proportion of migrants in Canada. Recognizing the physical, mental and social challenges often posed by displacement and resettlement, community-based programs can contribute to the well-being of migrant children and facilitate their integration, especially during the pandemic. However, little is known about the processes by which these online interventions work from the perspectives of youth and practitioners.

Objective: This study seeks to describe the experiences of service users of Say Ça!, a community-based drop-in program in Montreal, and to better understand the processes that contribute to the well-being of newcomer youth in the context of a global crisis.

Methods: Photo journals and individual interviews with six newcomer youth (ages 12-17) and focus group discussions with 11 program facilitators explored how the pandemic affected the experiences of youth participating in Say Ça!.

Results: Findings suggest perceived beneficial effects of the program on the well-being of youth, as well as some challenges related to online participation from the perspectives of youth and practitioners. Youth engaged in an individualized online program that incorporated their interests, encouraged self-expression, offered social and academic support, and was a source of leisure. By adopting a relationship-centered approach as well as a youth-centered approach, Say Ça! responded to the needs for social support and connection of its youth during the pandemic.

Implications: Strategies developed by local and community-engaged organizations are essential to develop adequate and relevant services that respond to the changing needs of its population in the context of a crisis.

Comorbidity in Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder with Specific Learning Disorders

Lara Ipekian1; Lily Hechtman1,2

1Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
2Division of Child Psychiatry, Montreal Children's Hospital, QC, Canada

Corresponding author: Lara Ipekian, email: lara.ipekian@mail.mcgill.ca


Introduction: Specific Learning Disorders (SLD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are neurodevelopmental disorders that commonly co-occur in adulthood. Analyzed independently, SLD and ADHD increase the risk for other mental health disorders (MHD). There is little research about the prevalence of MHD in adults with ADHD combined with SLD.

Objective: To examine the prevalence of comorbid mental health disorders (MHD) and personality disorders (PD) in adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and specific learning disorders (SLD). Furthermore, to identify whether the nature of these comorbidities differs depending on the type of SLD.

Methods: This retrospective chart review analyzes 842 adults clinically referred for ADHD symptoms at the Montreal Children’s Hospital between 2001 and 2018. Chi-square tests and logistic regression analyses were conducted.

Results: Adults with ADHD and SLD, versus ADHD alone, had higher rates of current MHD (52.63% and 41.10%), history of MHD (63.16% and 54.34%), and lifetime PD (51.31% and 47.03%). From the adults with ADHD and SLD, those with math problems were more likely to have current depression and substance use disorder history, while those with reading problems were more likely to have a history of social phobia.

Discussion: Having SLD in addition to ADHD significantly increases the risk of having particular mental health disorders. The type of SLD affects the nature of these comorbidities.

Implications: These findings alert clinicians about the potential comorbidities for the adult ADHD with SLD population and the need to provide early and individualized treatment that will lead to optimal clinical outcomes.

Early life stress modifies fear-induced glutamatergic neurotransmission in the medial prefrontal cortex of juvenile males

Jiamin Song1,2, Luc Moquin1, Hong Long1, Silvanna Verlezza1, Alain Gratton1,2, Claire-Dominique Walker1,2,3

1Douglas Hospital Research Center, Montreal, QC, Canada
2Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
3Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, McGill University, QC, Canada

Corresponding author: Claire-Dominique Walker, email: dominique.walker@douglas.mcgill.ca


Introduction: Early life stress (ELS) exposure increases vulnerability to psychiatric diseases associated with emotional dysregulation. The projections from the basolateral amygdala (BLA) and the ventral hippocampus to the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) plays an important role in fear conditioning and is highly sensitive to environmental stressors during early development. We previously reported that ELS-exposed offspring altered morphological and electrophysiological characteristics of BLA neurons as well as increased anxiety behavior later in adulthood, where males are more susceptible than females to ELS exposure. In this study, we examined whether exposure to ELS modifies glutamatergic tone in both prelimbic (PL) and infralimbic (IL) regions of the mPFC in parallel with changes in freezing behavior during and after fear conditioning in juvenile rats.

Methods: The limited bedding (LB) paradigm with an elevated metal grid on the home cage floor above woodchip bedding during PND1-10 was used as a model of ELS, and normal bedding condition (NB) was used as a control. On PND28-32, We measured extracellular glutamateconcentrations in the right PL/IL mPFC before, during and after fear conditioning using in vivo microdialysis in NB/LB juvenile male rats (NB n=7, LB n=13). Freezing behavior was recorded simultaneously to microdialysate collection.

Results: Freezing behavior during recovery was significantly modified by bedding (p=0.0278), as LB juveniles displaying more freezing than NB animals. In juvenile males, glutamate concentrations during and after fear conditioning in the PL, but not IL mPFC was significantly higher in NB compared with LB rats (p=0.0344). Thus, while LB conditions delays behavioral fear recovery in juvenile males, fear induced glutamate response inthe right PL mPFC was diminished in the offspring exposed to LB, suggesting that ELS might increase inhibitory tone in the PL mPFC during fear conditioning. Supported by a grant from CIHR # PJT162376 to CDW.

Cortical Thickness Changes in Young Pre-symptomatic FTD Mutation Carriers.

Tristin Best1, Elizabeth finger2, Simon Ducharme3,4

1Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
2Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences, Western University, London, ON, Canada
3Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
4Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada

Corresponding author: Simon Ducharme, email: simon.ducharme@mcgill.ca


Background: Evidence from genetic neurodegenerative disorders has suggested that cerebral abnormalities may occur during neurodevelopment. It remains unclear, however, if this occurs in genetic frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which is caused by autosomal dominant mutations in one of three genes: Chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72), Progranulin (GRN), and Microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT). To explore this question, we examined whether cortical changes can be observed in young individuals with mutations causative of FTD.

Methods: Data was retrieved from data release 5 of the Genetic Frontotemporal Dementia Initiative. T1-weighted structural MRI images from subjects (age 18-30) with mutations causative of FTD (n = 43, scan number = 67) and healthy controls (n = 42, scan number = 77) were processed for cortical thickness using CIVET 2.1. Using mixed-effects models controlling for age, sex and study site, we examined whole brain voxel-wise differences in cortical thickness in mutation carriers compared to controls and tested for the age by genetic status interaction.

Results: Subjects with the GRN mutations (n = 15, scan number = 23) showed static cortical thinning (p < 0.05, FDR corrected) in a typical GRN FTD pattern (frontal, anterior temporal with asymmetric parietal lobe involvement). No differences in cortical thickness were found in other mutation carriers.
Conclusions: These patterns of cortical thinning accurately reflect the anatomical changes typically seen in GRN mutation related FTD, which may suggest that changes in anatomical structure may occur earlier in the lifespan than predicted. This suggests a potential neurodevelopmental effect of the GRN mutation.

Generativity among persons with mental illness

Gerald Jordan1, Larry Davidson1, Chyrell Bellamy1

1Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

Corresponding author: Gerald Jorda, email: gerald.jordan@yale.edu


Introduction: Generativity refers to one’s concern for and contributions towards the betterment of others, including future generations. By engaging in generativity, people with mental health problems may find new meaning in life, thereby fostering recovery from mental health problems. However, no study has explored barriers and facilitators of generativity among persons with mental health problems; nor has the role generativity plays in recovery from mental health problems been explored. Objective: To determine 1) the factors associated with generativity, and 2) whether generativity is associated with recovery.

Methods: 43 participants were recruited from a mental health hospital in the United States. Participants first completed questionnaires measuring generativity and predictors of generativity (i.e., peer support, meaning in life, spirituality, resilience, stigma, and discrimination) and recovery.

Results: Correlational analyses indicated that only spirituality (r = .39, P = .009) and meaning in life (r = .41, P = .01) were related to generativity. Generativity was correlated with overall recovery scores (r = .41, P = .006). Additional analyses revealed positive correlations between generativity and the domains reflecting no domination by symptoms (r = .32, P = .04), a willingness to ask for help (r = .46, P = .002), and personal confidence and hope (r = .48, P =.001).

Discussion: To support recovery, mental health services should facilitate generativity. Our findings help advance knowledge in disciplines like psychiatry and psychology by broadening conceptions of recovery beyond symptom remission to include citizenship and full participation of persons with mental health problems in society

Perineuronal nets in the brains of depressed suicides with a history of child abuse

Claudia Belliveau1,2, Arnaud Tanti2, Refilwe Mpai1,2, Stéphanie Théberge2, Ashley McFarquhar2, Fanny Denux2, Maria Antonietta Davoli2, Naguib Mechawar1,2,3

1Integrated Program in Neuroscience, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
2McGill Group for Suicide Studies, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Verdun, QC, Canada
3Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada

Corresponding author: Claudia Belliveau, email: claudia.belliveau@mail.mcgill.ca


Background: Experiencing child abuse (CA), defined as physical, emotional and/or sexual maltreatment or neglect, is considered as one of the strongest predictors of depression and suicide. Childhood and adolescence are characterized by critical periods of heightened plasticity whose closure is driven by the development of perineuronal nets (PNNs) around certain neurons in the brain. We hypothesize that CA occurring during these critical periods alters the recruitment of PNNs and their maintenance in areas of the brain involved in the regulation of emotions.

Methods: Thoroughly characterized postmortem brain samples from the Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank were obtained. Immunofluorescent staining was performed with different combinations of cellular markers (PV, NeuN, Westeria Floribunda Lectin) to calculate densities and staining intensity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Fluorescent in-situ hybridization (RNAScope) was performed to characterize the identity of neurons enwrapped by PNNs. Microscope images were analyzed using QuPath and FIJI to compare the brains of depressed suicides with or without a history of child abuse and psychiatrically healthy controls (N=35).

Results: CA was found to be associated with higher densities (F (10, 115) = 2.07, P< 0.05) intensity (F(2, 1338) = 80.56, P<0.001) and coverage (F (2, 1259) = 11.06, P<0.001) of PNNs specifically in the lower cortical layers of the vmPFC of depressed suicides. All ANOVAs were followed by Tukey’s multiple comparison’s test. PNNs were found to be covering both inhibitory and excitatory neurons (PVALB+ or SLC17A7+) in the vmPFC.

Conclusion: For the first time we characterize PNNs in the vmPFC of depressed suicides, revealing the lasting impact of CA. This may represent a mechanism through which early-life adversity increases vulnerability to psychopathologies such as depression and suicide. We are currently investigating the mechanism which underlies these changes, by examining microglia which have recently been implicated in PNN maintenance.

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