A first episode of psychosis (FEP) affects around 3% of the general population, and a large portion of these individuals go on to relapse. It was important to find cognitive and biological indicators that would assist in improving the diagnosis, treatment, and outcome of such events, as well as to define novel therapeutic targets because it was difficult to anticipate the clinical course after an FEP. For a study, researchers examined oxytocin and prolactin plasma levels during an FEP, evaluating their relationship to clinical and cognitive traits.

All 120 FEP patients and 106 healthy controls had clinical and cognitive evaluations, and oxytocin and prolactin levels in their plasma were evaluated. Antipsychotics were being used to treat the majority of patients. The goal of statistical analysis was to find connections between the variables and to pinpoint the causes of the FEP. Because the P-values were not adjusted for multiple comparisons, the study was exploratory and preliminary.

Patients with FEP performed worse in sustained attention and had lower oxytocin levels, higher prolactin levels, and lower premorbid IQs. Greater prolactin levels in male patients led to more severe psychotic symptoms and higher antipsychotic dosage requirements. Low levels of oxytocin were linked to poor sustained attention in women, but low levels of oxytocin and high levels of prolactin were linked to superior sustained attention performance in males.

Factors linked with a FEP include low oxytocin, high prolactin, low premorbid IQ, and poor sustained attention; these indicated possible treatment targets in these individuals. The biological components and cognitive domains may be significant during a FEP, which may aid in the development of novel treatments for this condition that may also be gender-specific.

Reference: academic.oup.com/ijnp/article/25/8/666/6556066