Background: The primary rationale for early detection and intervention in schizophrenia is the disorder's severity, chronicity and treatment resistance. This suggests that researchers pay closer attention to schizophrenia's premorbid and onset phases, when the vulnerability to psychosis becomes expressed and the neurobiological deficit processes driving symptom formation appear to be the most active.
Method: We review the evidence that brain plasticity may be retained or reversed despite deficit processes.
Results: The data are preliminary but suggestive enough to warrant further research.
Conclusions: Overall, we need to focus on the early course of schizophrenia, detecting cases early at onset or in the prodrome, testing whether this enhances treatment response and prognosis, and predicting at-risk cases early in the prodromal phase. Designs to address these questions are presented, and relevant issues are discussed.