Education & Certifications
M.P.H., Drexel University, Epidemiology (2015)
M.Sc, Hong Kong Baptist University, Environmental and Public Health Management (2011)
B.M., Lanzhou University, Dentistry (2010)
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The purpose of this review is to contextualize findings from the first 25years of PTSD genetics research, focusing on the most robust findings and interpreting results in light of principles that have emerged from modern genetics studies.RECENT FINDINGS: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) encompassing tens of thousands of participants enabled the first molecular genetic heritability and genetic correlation estimates for PTSD in 2017. In 2018, highly promising loci for PTSD were reported, including variants in and near the CAMKV, KANSL1, and TCF4 genes. Twin studies from 25years ago established that PTSD is genetically influenced and foreshadowed the molecular genetic findings of today. Discoveries that were impossible with smaller studies have been achieved via collaborative/team-science efforts. Most promisingly, individual genomic loci offer entirely novel clues about PTSD etiology, providing the raw material for transformative discoveries, and the future of PTSD research is bright.
View details for PubMedID 30350223
Hoarding disorder is characterized by difficulty parting with possessions and by clutter that impairs the functionality of living spaces. Cognitive behavioral therapy conducted by a therapist (individual or in a group) for hoarding symptoms has shown promise. For those who cannot afford or access the services of a therapist, one alternative is an evidence-based, highly structured, short-term, skills-based group using CBT principles but led by non-professional facilitators (the Buried in Treasures [BIT] Workshop). BIT has achieved improvement rates similar to those of psychologist-led CBT. Regardless of modality, however, clinically relevant symptoms remain after treatment, and new approaches to augment existing treatments are needed. Based on two recent studies - one reporting that personalized care and accountability made treatments more acceptable to individuals with hoarding disorder and another reporting that greater number of home sessions were associated with better clinical outcomes, we tested the feasibility and effectiveness of adding personalized, in-home uncluttering sessions to the final weeks of BIT. Participants (n = 5) had 15 sessions of BIT and up to 20 hours of in-home uncluttering. Reductions in hoarding symptoms, clutter, and impairment of daily activities were observed. Treatment response rate was comparable to rates in other BIT studies, with continued improvement in clutter level after in-home uncluttering sessions. This small study suggests that adding in-home uncluttering sessions to BIT is feasible and effective.
View details for PubMedID 30419524
Prior studies suggest white matter growth is reduced and white matter microstructure is altered in the brains of young children with type 1 diabetes when compared with brains of non-diabetic children, due in part to adverse effects of hyperglycaemia. This longitudinal observational study examines whether dysglycaemia alters the developmental trajectory of white matter microstructure over time in young children with type 1 diabetes.One hundred and eighteen children, aged 4 to <10 years old with type 1 diabetes and 58 age-matched, non-diabetic children were studied at baseline and 18 months, at five Diabetes Research in Children Network clinical centres. We analysed longitudinal trajectories of white matter using diffusion tensor imaging. Continuous glucose monitoring profiles and HbA1c levels were obtained every 3 months.Axial diffusivity was lower in children with diabetes at baseline (p = 0.022) and at 18 months (p = 0.015), indicating that differences in white matter microstructure persist over time in children with diabetes. Within the diabetes group, lower exposure to hyperglycaemia, averaged over the time since diagnosis, was associated with higher fractional anisotropy (p = 0.037). Fractional anisotropy was positively correlated with performance (p < 0.002) and full-scale IQ (p < 0.02).These results suggest that hyperglycaemia is associated with altered white matter development, which may contribute to the mild cognitive deficits in this population.
View details for PubMedID 29654376
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5991628
This study examined whether a history of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is associated with changes in longitudinal cognitive and brain development in young children with type 1 diabetes.Cognitive and brain imaging data were analyzed from 144 children with type 1 diabetes, ages 4 to <10 years, who participated in an observational study of the Diabetes Research in Children Network (DirecNet). Participants were grouped according to history of DKA severity (none/mild or moderate/severe). Each participant had unsedated MRI scans and cognitive testing at baseline and 18 months.In 48 of 51 subjects, the DKA event occurred at the time of onset, at an average of 2.9 years before study entry. The moderate/severe DKA group gained more total and regional white and gray matter volume over the observed 18 months compared with the none/mild group. When matched by age at time of enrollment and average HbA1c during the 18-month interval, participants who had a history of moderate/severe DKA compared with none/mild DKA were observed to have significantly lower Full Scale Intelligence Quotient scores, cognitive performance on the Detectability and Commission subtests of the Conners' Continuous Performance Test II, and the Dot Locations subtest of the Children's Memory Scale.A single episode of moderate/severe DKA in young children at diagnosis is associated with lower cognitive scores and altered brain growth. Further studies are needed to assess whether earlier diagnosis of type 1 diabetes and prevention of DKA may reduce the long-term effect of ketoacidosis on the developing brain.
View details for DOI 10.2337/dc18-1405
View details for PubMedID 30573652
View details for PubMedID 29505186
Cognitive functioning difficultiesin breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy are common, but not all women experience these impairments. Exposure to childhood trauma may impair cognitive functioning following chemotherapy, and these impairments may be mediated by dysregulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function and cortisol slope. This study evaluated the association between childhood trauma exposure, cortisol, and cognition in a sample of breast cancer survivors. 56 women completed measures of trauma exposure (the Traumatic Events Survey), salivary cortisol, and self-reported cognitive functioning (the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy - Cognitive). We examined correlations between childhood trauma exposure and cognitive functioning, then used linear regression to control for factors associated with cognition (age, education, time since chemotherapy, depression, anxiety, and insomnia), and the MacArthur approach to test whether cortisol levels mediated the relationship between trauma and cognitive functioning. 57.1% of the sample had experienced at least one traumatic event in childhood, with 19.6% of the sample witnessing a serious injury, 17.9% experiencing physical abuse, and 14.3% experiencing sexual abuse. Childhood trauma exposure and cognitive functioning were moderately associated (r=-0.29). This association remained even when controlling for other factors associated with cognition; the final model explained 47% of the variance in cognitive functioning. The association between childhood trauma and cognitive functioning was mediated by steeper cortisol slope (partial r=0.35, p=0.02). Childhood trauma exposure is associated with self-reported cognitive functioning among breast cancer survivors and is mediated by cortisol dysregulation. Trauma should be considered, among other factors, in programs aiming to address cognition in this population.
View details for PubMedID 28818733
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5659913
New methods in genetics research, such as linkage disequilibrium score regression (LDSR), quantify overlap in the common genetic variants that influence diverse phenotypes. It is becoming clear that genetic effects often cut across traditional diagnostic boundaries. Here, we introduce genetic correlation analysis (using LDSR) to a nongeneticist audience and report transdisciplinary discoveries about schizophrenia. This analytical study design used publically available genome wide association study (GWAS) data from approximately 1.5 million individuals. Genetic correlations between schizophrenia and 172 medical, psychiatric, personality, and metabolomic phenotypes were calculated using LDSR, as implemented in LDHub in order to identify known and new genetic correlations. Consistent with previous research, the strongest genetic correlation was with bipolar disorder. Positive genetic correlations were also found between schizophrenia and all other psychiatric phenotypes tested, the personality traits of neuroticism and openness to experience, and cigarette smoking. Novel results were found with medical phenotypes: schizophrenia was negatively genetically correlated with serum citrate, positively correlated with inflammatory bowel disease, and negatively correlated with BMI, hip, and waist circumference. The serum citrate finding provides a potential link between rare cases of schizophrenia (strongly influenced by 22q11.2 deletions) and more typical cases of schizophrenia (with polygenic influences). Overall, these genetic correlation findings match epidemiological findings, suggesting that common variant genetic effects are part of the scaffolding underlying phenotypic comorbidity. The "genetic correlation profile" is a succinct report of shared genetic effects, is easily updated with new information (eg, from future GWAS), and should become part of basic disease knowledge about schizophrenia.
View details for PubMedID 29294133
HIV-positive men who have sex with men (HIVMSM) face severe stigma and high levels of stressors, and have high prevalence of mental health problems (e.g., depression and anxiety). Very few studies explored the role of positive psychological factors on mental health problems among HIVMSM. The present study investigated the prevalence of two mental health problems (anxiety and depression), and their associated protective (gratitude) and risk (enacted HIV-related stigma, and perceived stress) factors among HIVMSM in China. A cross-sectional survey was conducted among 321 HIVMSM in Chengdu, China, by using a structured questionnaire. Over half (55.8%) of the participants showed probable mild to severe depression (as assessed by the Center of Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale); 53.3% showed probable anxiety (as assessed by the General Anxiety Disorder scale). Adjusted logistic regression models revealed that gratitude (adjusted odds ratio (ORa = 0.90, 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) = 0.86-0.94) was found to be protective, whilst perceived stress (ORa = 1.17, 95% CI = 1.12-1.22) and enacted stigma (ORa = 7.72, 95% CI = 2.27-26.25) were risk factors of depression. Gratitude (ORa = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.91-0.99) was also found to be protective whilst perceived stress (ORa = 1.19, 95% CI = 1.14-1.24) was a risk factor of anxiety. Gratitude did not moderate the associations found between related factors and poor mental health. It is warranted to promote mental health among HIVMSM, as depression/anxiety was highly prevalent. Such interventions should consider enhancement of gratitude, reduction of stress, and removal of enacted stigma as potential strategies, as such factors were significantly associated with depression/anxiety among HIVMSM.
View details for DOI 10.1080/09540121.2015.1118430
View details for Web of Science ID 000371645600011
View details for PubMedID 26689341
Depression is a common cause of morbidity and disability worldwide. Parental depression is associated with early-life child neurodevelopmental, behavioral, emotional, mental, and social problems. More studies are needed to explore the link between parental depression and long-term child outcomes.To examine the associations of parental depression with child school performance at the end of compulsory education (approximately age 16 years).Parental depression diagnoses (based on the International Classification of Diseases, Eighth Revision [ICD-8], International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision [ICD-9], and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision [ICD-10]) in inpatient records from 1969 onward, outpatient records beginning in 2001, and school grades at the end of compulsory education were collected for all children born from 1984 to 1994 in Sweden. The final analytic sample size was 1,124,162 biological children. We examined the associations of parental depression during different periods (before birth, after birth, and during child ages 1-5, 6-10, and 11-16 years, as well as any time before the child's final year of compulsory schooling) with the final school grades. Linear regression models adjusted for various child and parent characteristics. The dates of the analysis were January to November 2015.Decile of school grades at the end of compulsory education (range, 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest).The study cohort comprised 1,124,162 children, of whom 48.9% were female. Maternal depression and paternal depression at any time before the final compulsory school year were associated with worse school performance. After covariate adjustment, these associations decreased to -0.45 (95% CI, -0.48 to -0.42) and -0.40 (-0.43 to -0.37) lower deciles, respectively. These effect sizes are similarly as large as the observed difference in school performance between the lowest and highest quintiles of family income but approximately one-third of the observed difference between maternal education of 9 or less vs more than 12 years. Both maternal depression and paternal depression at different periods (before birth, after birth, and during child ages 1-5, 6-10, and 11-16 years) generally were associated with worse school performance. Child sex modified the associations of maternal depression with school performance such that maternal depression had a larger negative influence on child school performance for girls compared with boys.Diagnoses of parental depression throughout a child's life were associated with worse school performance at age 16 years. Our results suggest that diagnoses of parental depression may have a far-reaching effect on an important aspect of child development, with implications for future life course outcomes.
View details for DOI 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2917
View details for Web of Science ID 000371613500011
View details for PubMedID 26842307
View details for PubMedID 27903098
Inhaled nitrites are commonly used by men who have sex with men (MSM) in western countries. As such compounds are not illicit, they are widely available in China. Recent studies have documented a high prevalence of inhaled nitrites use in this population.Snowball sampling was used to recruit 576 MSM in Beijing, China, who completed an anonymous face-to-face interview.Of the participants, 49.8% had heard of "Rush" or "inhaled nitrites". The prevalence of use in the last three months was 28.3% among all participants and 56.8% among those with awareness about the compounds. A stepwise model found that age group (26-35 years old, ORm= 3.91; ≤ 25 years old, ORm = 3.05; reference group: >35 years old, P < 0.01) and multiple male sex partnerships (ORm = 2.29, P < 0.01) were associated with inhaled nitrites use. Adjusted for these two variables, constructs based on the Health Belief Model (HBM) were significantly associated with inhaled nitrites use in the last three months: Perceived Severity Scale [Adjusted Odds Ratios (AOR) = 0.72, P < 0.001], the Perceived Benefit Scale (AOR = 1.20, P < 0.001), the Perceived Barrier Scale (AOR = 0.81, P < 0.01), the Cue to Action Scale (AOR = 1.45, P < 0.001), and the Perceived Self-efficacy Scale (AOR = 0.71, P < 0.001).The prevalence of inhaled nitrites use was high. It may further increase sharply among MSM in China when awareness becomes more common. Cognitive variables derived from the HBM provided a useful framework for designing interventions at structural, inter-personal and individual levels. Policy changes should also be considered.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.01.021
View details for Web of Science ID 000351799200013
View details for PubMedID 25680516
Screening is useful in reducing cancer incidence and mortality. People with severe mental illness (PSMI) are vulnerable to cancer as they are exposed to higher levels of cancer risks. Little is known about PSMI's cancer screening behavior and associated factors. The present study examined the utilization of breast, cervical, prostate, and colorectal cancer screening among PSMI in Hong Kong and to identify factors associated with their screening behaviors.591 PSMI from community mental health services completed a cross-sectional survey.The percentage of cancer screening behavior among those who met the criteria for particular screening recommendation was as follows: 20.8% for mammography; 36.5% for clinical breast examination (CBE); 40.5% for pap-smear test; 12.8% for prostate examination; and 21.6% for colorectal cancer screening. Results from logistic regression analyses showed that marital status was a significant factor for mammography, CBE, and pap-smear test; belief that cancer can be healed if found early was a significant factor for pap-smear test and colorectal screening; belief that one can have cancer without having symptoms was a significant factor for CBE and pap-smear test; belief that one will have a higher risk if a family member has had cancer was a significant factor for CBE; and self-efficacy was a significant factor for CBE and pap-smear test behavior.Cancer screening utilization among PSMI in Hong Kong is low. Beliefs about cancer and self-efficacy are associated with cancer screening behavior. Health care professionals should improve the knowledge and remove the misconceptions about cancer among PSMI; self-efficacy should also be promoted.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0107237
View details for Web of Science ID 000343671700033
View details for PubMedID 25268752