Background: Despite the need for significant clinical intervention owing to the psychiatric manifestations of Huntington disease (HD), there has been a paucity of studies specifically designed to evaluate these symptoms prior to disease diagnosis.
Objectives: To investigate whether the Symptom Checklist 90-Revised (SCL-90-R) and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale can be used to detect psychiatric manifestations among preclinical mutation carriers with absent or minimal motor signs of HD.
Design, setting, and participants: Individuals at risk for or recently diagnosed with HD were recruited and then evaluated at Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis. All of the subjects completed a uniform clinical evaluation that included the Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale-99, molecular testing to determine HD mutation status, the SCL-90-R, and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. The sample was divided into 4 study groups: 171 individuals in the nonmutation carrier group; 29 with minimal, if any, motor signs of HD in the preclinical mutation carrier group 1; 20 with motor abnormalities suggestive of HD in the preclinical mutation carrier group 2; and 34 in the manifest HD group.
Main outcome measures: Scores on the SCL-90-R and Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale were compared.
Results: Five SCL-90-R symptom dimensions (obsessive-compulsive, interpersonal sensitivity, anxiety, paranoid ideation, and psychoticism) demonstrated a significant group effect (P < or = .04). The preclinical mutation carrier group 2 and the manifest HD group scored significantly higher on all 5 dimensions as compared with the nonmutation carrier group. The preclinical mutation carrier group 2 scored significantly higher than the nonmutation carrier group for 3 of the SCL-90-R symptom dimensions (anxiety, paranoid ideation, and psychoticism). A significant group effect was found on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (P = .04). The frequency of depressive symptoms was significantly higher in the manifest HD group and the preclinical mutation carrier group 2 as compared with the nonmutation carrier group.
Conclusion: This study identified specific psychiatric symptom dimensions that differentiate nonmutation carriers from individuals in the early preclinical stages of HD who are either symptom free or have minor nonspecific motor abnormalities.