Research Articles (Psychiatry)


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    Patterning of individual variability in neurocognitive health among South African women exposed to childhood maltreatment
    (Nature, 2021-03) Denckla, Christy A.; Lee, Sun Yeop; Kim, Rockli; Spies, Georgina; Vasterling, Jennifer J.; Subramanian, S. V.; Seedat, Soraya
    There are individual differences in health outcomes following exposure to childhood maltreatment, yet constant individual variance is often assumed in analyses. Among 286 Black, South African women, the association between childhood maltreatment and neurocognitive health, defined here as neurocognitive performance (NP), was first estimated assuming constant variance. Then, without assuming constant variance, we applied Goldstein’s method (Encyclopedia of statistics in behavioral science, Wiley, 2005) to model “complex level-1 variation” in NP as a function of childhood maltreatment. Mean performance in some tests of information processing speed (Digit-symbol, Stroop Word, and Stroop Color) lowered with increasing severity of childhood maltreatment, without evidence of significant individual variation. Conversely, we found significant individual variation by severity of childhood maltreatment in tests of information processing speed (Trail Making Test) and executive function (Color Trails 2 and Stroop Color-Word), in the absence of mean differences. Exploratory results suggest that the presence of individual-level heterogeneity in neurocognitive performance among women exposed to childhood maltreatment warrants further exploration. The methods presented here may be used in a person-centered framework to better understand vulnerability to the toxic neurocognitive effects of childhood maltreatment at the individual level, ultimately informing personalized prevention and treatment.
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    Evaluation of an undergraduate psychiatric clinical rotation : exploring student perceptions
    (AOSIS, 2021-05) Smit, Inge M.; Volschenk, Mariette; Koen, Liezl
    Background: Globally, the appropriate transformation of medical training is critical to ensure the graduation of competent physicians who can address the growing health needs. Aim: To explore medical students’ perceptions of their learning experience during the undergraduate psychiatry late clinical rotation (PLCR) at Stellenbosch University (SU) and to use the findings to make possible recommendations regarding curriculum renewal. Setting: In recognition of this, the Department of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of SU is reviewing its current teaching and learning practices. Methods: Data were collected from two focus groups. Results: Three main themes emerged: ‘learning in the clinical context’, ‘gaining knowledge’ and ‘generational needs’. Whilst several suggestions were made for potential improvement, the participants still endorsed that the PLCR does provide them with a good learning experience in psychiatry. Conclusions: Considering that these perceptions are from a group of millennials, the insights arising from the ‘generational needs’ theme were especially valuable. To bridge the generational gap and develop a curriculum that will not only meet the standards expected by educators but also achieve acceptance from learners, future research with a specific focus on clinical teachers’ perceptions is needed.
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    Digit ratio as an endophenotype in a schizophrenia population
    (AOSIS, 2021-03) Nieuwoudt, Wilhelm D. B.; Smit, Inge M.; Niehaus, Dana; Koen, Liezl; Jordaan, Esme
    Background: Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental health condition affecting the lives of many South Africans. The origins of the heterogeneity in the presentation of the illness remain uncertain. Aim: This cross-sectional study performed a retrospective data analysis to determine the usefulness of digit ratio as an endophenotype in a South African schizophrenia population. Setting: A large genetic study in a South African schizophrenia population recruited patients from services in the Western and Eastern Cape. Methods: Complete clinical histories were captured for participants, including sets of images of the face and extremities. Software was utilised to measure the lengths of participants’ digits from said images and digit ratios (2D:4D) were calculated. Descriptive analyses were performed on the ratios and statistical differences in digit ratio means were calculated between groups characterised by sex, age of onset and the presence vs absence of positive symptoms. Linear modelling was utilised to assess for correlates between 2D:4D and positive and negative symptom severity using scores obtained from the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS). Results: 2D:4D in male participants did not significantly differ from female participants as in healthy populations. 2D:4D did not significantly correlate with the severity of positive or negative symptoms and 2D:4D means between groups did not significantly relate to age of onset. Conclusion: 2D:4D appears to be a possible endophenotype in schizophrenia in this population. 2D:4D, however, may not be as readily identifiable as certain minor physical anomalies and neurological soft signs significantly associated with schizophrenia in this population.
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    Becoming a Xhosa traditional healer : the calling, illness, conflict and belonging
    (AOSIS, 2021-03) Van der Watt, Alberta S. J.; Biederman, Sarah V.; Abdulmalik, Jibril O.; Mbanga, Irene; Das-Brailsford, Pricilla; Seedat, Soraya, 1966-
    Background: Traditional healers (THs) are an important part of the healthcare system in sub-Saharan Africa. Understanding their training, experiences of becoming healers and their perceived roles in society is critical. Aim: This study aimed to explore the experience of becoming a TH, including accepting the calling, and sheds light on how the experience is conceptualised within the cultural and communitarian context of THs. Setting: This study was conducted amongst Xhosa THs in the Western Cape, South Africa. Methods: In-depth phenomenological interviews (n = 4) were conducted with Xhosa THs and analysed using Giorgi’s descriptive pre-transcendental Husserlian phenomenological analysis. Results: The experience of becoming a TH can be summarised in the context of three units of significance: (1) the gift of healing as an illness; (2) the experience of conflict (including with their families, the church and self-conflict); and (3) the experience of belonging. Familial conflict, specifically, was fuelled by the financial burden of becoming a TH and a lack of understanding of the process. Conclusion: To develop a workable model of collaboration in the future, it is crucial that mental healthcare providers develop a better understanding of the experiences of THs in becoming care providers. The findings highlight an appreciation of the challenging process of becoming a TH. Finally, further research and culturally appropriate psychoeducation can provide trainee THs and their family members with the skills and knowledge to support each other through a difficult process.
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    Associations of premorbid adjustment with type and timing of childhood trauma in first-episode schizophrenia spectrum disorders
    (AOSIS, 2021-06) Smit, Anna M.; Kilian, Sanja; Emsley, Robin A.; Luckhoff, Hilmar K.; Swartz, Leslie; Seedat, Soraya; Asmal, Laila
    Background: Childhood trauma may contribute to poorer premorbid social and academic adjustment which may be a risk factor for schizophrenia. Aim: We explored the relationship between premorbid adjustment and childhood trauma, timing of childhood trauma’s moderating role as well as the association of clinical and treatment-related confounders with premorbid adjustment. Setting: We conducted a secondary analysis in 111 patients with first-episode schizophrenia (FES) disorders that formed part of two parent studies, EONKCS study (n =73) and the Shared Roots study (n =38). Methods: Type of childhood trauma was assessed with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, short-form and premorbid adjustment using the Premorbid Adjustment Scale. Timing of childhood trauma was assessed using the Life Events Checklist and life events timeline. Linear regression analyses were used to assess the moderating effect of timing of childhood trauma. Clinical and treatment-related confounders were entered into sequential hierarchical regression models to identify independent predictors of premorbid adjustment across key life stages. Results: Childhood physical neglect was associated with poorer premorbid academic functioning during childhood and early adolescence, and poorer premorbid social functioning during early and late adolescence. By hierarchical regression modelling (r2 = 0.13), higher physical neglect subscale scores (p = 0.011) independently predicted poorer premorbid social adjustment during early adolescence. Timing of childhood trauma did not moderate the relationship between childhood trauma and premorbid functioning. Conclusion: In patients with FES, childhood physical neglect may contribute to poorer premorbid social functioning during early adolescence. This may provide us with an opportunity to identify and treat at-risk individuals earlier.