Duration of untreated psychosis/illness and brain volume changes in early psychosis

Charlotte Rapp, Carlos Canela, Erich Studerus, Anna Walter, Jacqueline Aston, Stefan Borgwardt, Anita Riecher-Rössler*

*Corresponding author for this work
27 Citations (Scopus)


The time period during which patients manifest psychotic or unspecific symptoms prior to treatment (duration of untreated psychosis, DUP, and the duration of untreated illness, DUI) has been found to be moderately associated with poor clinical and social outcome. Equivocal evidence exists of an association between DUP/DUI and structural brain abnormalities, such as reduced hippocampus volume (HV), pituitary volume (PV) and grey matter volume (GMV). Thus, the goal of the present work was to examine if DUP and DUI are associated with abnormalities in HV, PV and GMV. Using a region of interest (ROI) based approach, we present data of 39 patients from the Basel FePsy (Früherkennung von Psychosen, early detection of psychosis) study for which information about DUP, DUI and HV, PV and GMV data could be obtained. Twenty-three of them were first episode psychosis (FEP) and 16 at-risk mental state (ARMS) patients who later made the transition to frank psychosis. In unadjusted analyses, we found a significant positive correlation between DUP and PV in FEP patients. However, when adjusted for covariates, we found no significant correlation between DUP or DUI and HV, PV or GMV anymore. There only was a trend for decreasing GMV with increasing DUI in FEP. Our results do not comprehensively support the hypothesis of a “toxic” effect of the pathogenic mechanism underlying untreated psychosis on brain structure. If there is any effect, it might rather occur very early in the disease process, during which patients experience only unspecific symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychiatry Research
Pages (from-to)332-337
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 09.2017


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