Realising stratified psychiatry using multidimensional signatures and trajectories

Dan W. Joyce*, Angie A. Kehagia, Derek K. Tracy, Jessica Proctor, Sukhwinder S. Shergill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
118 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Stratified or personalised medicine targets treatments for groups of individuals with a disorder based on individual heterogeneity and shared factors that influence the likelihood of response. Psychiatry has traditionally defined diagnoses by constellations of co-occurring signs and symptoms that are assigned a categorical label (e.g. schizophrenia). Trial methodology in psychiatry has evaluated interventions targeted at these categorical entities, with diagnoses being equated to disorders. Recent insights into both the nosology and neurobiology of psychiatric disorder reveal that traditional categorical diagnoses cannot be equated with disorders. We argue that current quantitative methodology (1) inherits these categorical assumptions, (2) allows only for the discovery of average treatment response, (3) relies on composite outcome measures and (4) sacrifices valuable predictive information for stratified and personalised treatment in psychiatry. Methods and findings: To achieve a truly 'stratified psychiatry' we propose and then operationalise two necessary steps: first, a formal multi-dimensional representation of disorder definition and clinical state, and second, the similar redefinition of outcomes as multidimensional constructs that can expose within- and between-patient differences in response. We use the categorical diagnosis of schizophrenia-conceptualised as a label for heterogeneous disorders-as a means of introducing operational definitions of stratified psychiatry using principles from multivariate analysis. We demonstrate this framework by application to the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness dataset, showing heterogeneity in both patient clinical states and their trajectories after treatment that are lost in the traditional categorical approach with composite outcomes. We then systematically review a decade of registered clinical trials for cognitive deficits in schizophrenia highlighting existing assumptions of categorical diagnoses and aggregate outcomes while identifying a small number of trials that could be reanalysed using our proposal. Conclusion: We describe quantitative methods for the development of a multi-dimensional model of clinical state, disorders and trajectories which practically realises stratified psychiatry. We highlight the potential for recovering existing trial data, the implications for stratified psychiatry in trial design and clinical treatment and finally, describe different kinds of probabilistic reasoning tools necessary to implement stratification.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
JournalJournal Of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2017


  • Methodology
  • Multivariate
  • Stratified psychiatry
  • Trials


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