Background A growing interest in first-episode schizophrenia reflects the belief that this line of investigation will lead to further developments regarding schizophrenia's aetiology, course and outcome.
Method Evidence from more recent clinical trials involving first-episode schizophrenia is integrated with neuroimaging data, specifically positron emission tomography, to provide direction regarding pharmacotherapy.
Results Individuals with a first episode of schizophrenia appear particularly responsive to pharmacotherapy, as well as quite sensitive to side-effects. At the same time, current clinical and receptor-binding data support the efficacy of low-dose neuroleptic treatment.
Conclusions Early and effective treatment of schizophrenia has been associated with better long-term outcome. Low-dose neuroleptic therapy is an effective treatment strategy and the diminished risk of side-effects with this approach may further enhance compliance and outcome.