Peripheral vasopressin but not oxytocin relates to severity of acute psychosis in women with acutely-ill untreated first-episode psychosis

Leah H. Rubin, C. Sue Carter, Jeffrey R. Bishop, Hossein Pournajafi-Nazarloo, Margret S H Harris, Scot K. Hill, James L. Reilly, John A. Sweeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: In women with chronic schizophrenia, higher levels of peripheral oxytocin have been associated with lower levels of positive but not negative symptoms. Sex-specific associations between endogenous levels of oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) with clinical symptoms and cognition in untreated early course patients have not been examined. Method: Clinical ratings and neuropsychological testing were performed in thirty-eight acutely ill, unmedicated first-episode schizophrenia patients (14 women, 24 men). Serum hormone assays were obtained in patients and thirty-eight demographically similar healthy controls. Results: Patients demonstrated increased AVP levels compared to controls (p= 0.01). Higher AVP levels were associated with greater positive symptoms (r= 0.58, p= 0.03) and worse verbal learning (r= - 0.63, p= 0.02) in female, but not male, patients. OT levels did not statistically differ between patients and controls, and were unrelated to clinical symptoms or cognition in patients. Conclusion: Results suggest an association of endogenous AVP with increased positive symptom severity and worse cognition in untreated female, but not male, schizophrenia patients. Findings support the role of neuroendocrine alterations in acute psychosis and the importance of examining sex-specific neuroendocrine alterations early in the course of schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-143
Number of pages6
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - May 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This publication was made possible by funds from NIH ( MH080066 , MH077862 , MHRR013987 ) as well as services provided by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health , through Grant UL1TR000050 . Dr. Rubin's effort was supported by grant number K12HD055892 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) , and the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH) . Dr. Bishop's effort was supported by NIMHK08MH083888 . Dr. Reilly's effort was supported by NIMHK08MH083126 . Dr. Bishop's effort was supported by NIMHMH072767 . The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Funding Information:
Dr. Bishop has received research grant support from Ortho-Mcneil Janssen. Dr. Sweeney has consulted with Takeda, Lilly, BMS, Roche, and Pfizer. The other authors have nothing to disclose.

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Oxytocin
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sex differences
  • Symptoms
  • Vasopressin
  • Verbal learning

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