A longitudinal approach to biological psychiatric research: The PsyCourse study

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In current diagnostic systems, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are still conceptualized as distinct categorical entities. Recently, both clinical and genomic evidence have challenged this Kraepelinian dichotomy. There are only few longitudinal studies addressing potential overlaps between these conditions. Here, we present design and first results of the PsyCourse study (N = 891 individuals at baseline), an ongoing transdiagnostic study of the affective-to-psychotic continuum that combines longitudinal deep phenotyping and dimensional assessment of psychopathology with an extensive collection of biomaterial. To provide an initial characterization of the PsyCourse study sample, we compare two broad diagnostic groups defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) classification system, that is, predominantly affective (n = 367 individuals) versus predominantly psychotic disorders (n = 524 individuals). Depressive, manic, and psychotic symptoms as well as global functioning over time were contrasted using linear mixed models. Furthermore, we explored the effects of polygenic risk scores for schizophrenia on diagnostic group membership and addressed their effects on nonparticipation in follow-up visits. While phenotypic results confirmed expected differences in current psychotic symptoms and global functioning, both manic and depressive symptoms did not vary between both groups after correction for multiple testing. Polygenic risk scores for schizophrenia significantly explained part of the variability of diagnostic group. The PsyCourse study presents a unique resource to research the complex relationships of psychopathology and biology in severe mental disorders not confined to traditional diagnostic boundaries and is open for collaborations.

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