BACKGROUND: We examined pituitary volume before the onset of psychosis in subjects who were at ultra-high risk (UHR) for developing psychosis. METHODS: Pituitary volume was measured on 1.5-mm, coronal, 1.5-T magnetic resonance images in 94 UHR subjects recruited from admissions to the Personal Assessment and Crisis Evaluation Clinic in Melbourne, Australia and in 49 healthy control subjects. The UHR subjects were scanned at baseline and were followed clinically for a minimum of 1 year to detect transition to psychosis. RESULTS: Within the UHR group, a larger baseline pituitary volume was a significant predictor of future transition to psychosis. The UHR subjects who later went on to develop psychosis (UHR-P, n = 31) had a significantly larger (+12%; p = .001) baseline pituitary volume compared with UHR subjects who did not go on to develop psychosis (UHR-NP, n = 63). The survival analysis conducted by Cox regression showed that the risk of developing psychosis during the follow-up increased by 20% for every 10% increase in baseline pituitary volume (p = .002). Baseline pituitary volume of the UHR-NP subjects was smaller not only compared with UHR-P (as described above) but also compared with control subjects (-6%; p = .032). CONCLUSIONS: The phase before the onset of psychosis is associated with a larger pituitary volume, suggesting activation of the HPA axis.