Pituitary volume in schizophrenia spectrum disorders

Romo-Nava F, Hoogenboom WS, Pelavin PE, Alvarado JL, Bobrow LH, Macmaster FP, Keshavan M, McCarley RW, Shenton ME

Schizophr. Res. 2013 May;146(1-3):301-7

PMID: 23522905


INTRODUCTION: There is converging evidence supporting hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD), such as schizotypal personality disorder (SPD), first-episode schizophrenia (FESZ) and chronic schizophrenia (CHSZ). Such an aberrant HPA activity might have volumetric consequences on the pituitary gland. However, previous magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies assessing pituitary volume (PV) in SSD are conflicting. The main objective of this study was to examine further PV in SSD.

METHODS: PV were manually traced on structural MRIs in 137 subjects, including subjects with SPD (n = 40), FESZ (n = 15), CHSZ (n = 15), and HC (n = 67). We used an ANCOVA to test PV between groups and gender while controlling for inter-subject variability in age, years of education, socioeconomic status, and whole brain volume.

RESULTS: Overall, women had larger PV than men, and within the male sample all SSD subjects had smaller PV than HC, statistically significant only for the SPD group. In addition, dose of medication, illness duration and age of onset were not associated with PV.

CONCLUSION: Chronic untreated HPA hyperactivity might account for smaller PV in SPD subjects, whereas the absence of PV changes in FESZ and CHSZ patients might be related to the normalizing effects of antipsychotics on PV. SPD studies offer a way to examine HPA related alterations in SSD without the potential confounds of medication effects.