September 27, 2005

Pituitary Volume Shows Psychosis Risk

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

Pituitary volume has an effect on one's risk of developing psychosis. For those in the beginning stages of a psychotic disorder, they appear to have a higher pituitary volume. The researchers looked at the pituitary volume of 94 individuals that were considered to have an "ultra-high risk" (UHR) of developing psychosis. They also used 49 controls who were deemed mentally healthy. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to look at the volume. This was done at baseline (the beginning of the study) and followed up for at least a year.

"The results showed that, among the UHR patients, a larger baseline pituitary volume was a significant predictor of future transition to psychosis. Specifically, the 31 UHR patients who went on to develop psychosis had a 12% larger pituitary volume than the 63 UHR patients who did not go on to develop psychosis. Further analysis indicated that for every 10% increase in baseline pituitary volume, the risk of developing psychosis rose by 20%" (

They also found that pituitary volumes of those who were UHR participants, but did not end up developing psychosis had smaller pituitary volumes than the UHR patients who did develop psychosis. Surprisingly they were also smaller than the controls by 6%. The researchers believe that those who are considered UHR have smaller pituitary volume than the mentally healthy. But the pituitary volume enlarges when they are about to develop an episode of psychosis.

Pituitary volume is an indicator of hormonal stress response and those involved in facilitating this study believe that keeping track of one's hormonal stress response (by looking at pituitary volume or other measures) can predict a first episode of psychosis. Prevention is always a preffered approach when dealing with any physical or mental disorder.

SOURCE: Pituitary volume may predict psychosis risk. September 27, 2005.

This research article was originally published in Biol Psychiatry 2005; 58: 417–423.

To learn more about the pituitary gland and about its anatomy & function, go to the University of Maryland Medical Center Pituitary Gland page.

To read another article on the pituitary gland's relationship to schizophrenia, click here.

To learn more about schizophrenia and its relationship to stress, check out this article.


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