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Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder and one of its characteristics is cognitive impairments. Findings regarding levels of the heme metabolite and plasma antioxidant bilirubin in schizophrenia are inconclusive. However, a recently published study indicate that low levels of bilirubin may be implicated in the memory impairments seen in the disorder. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to investigate the levels of bilirubin in individuals with a first-episode psychosis (FEP) and to examine if bilirubin levels were associated to cognitive impairments, symptoms and duration of untreated psychosis (DUP). Bilirubin levels were reduced in 39 individuals with FEP compared with 20 HC (median [IQR]: 11.0 [9.0-13.0] µM vs. 15.0 [11.5-18.5] µM). In individuals with FEP, bilirubin levels were also positively correlated to two working memory tests (r = 0.40 and r = 0.32) and inversely correlated to DUP (r = - 0.36). Findings were not influenced by confounding factors. The results confirm the antioxidant deficit previously seen in schizophrenia, but also indicate that these changes may be related to DUP. The study also confirms that bilirubin may be implicated in the cognitive deficits that accompanies the disorder, here for the first time presented in individuals with FEP.


Meneca Becklén, Funda Orhan, Fredrik Piehl, Simon Cervenka, Carl M Sellgren, Lena Flyckt, Sophie Erhardt, Helena Fatouros-Bergman. Plasma bilirubin levels are reduced in first-episode psychosis patients and associates to working memory and duration of untreated psychosis. Scientific reports. 2021 Apr 06;11(1):7527

PMID: 33824398

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