Author(s): Howes OD, Kapur S
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Abstract The dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia has been one of the most enduring ideas in psychiatry. Initially, the emphasis was on a role of hyperdopaminergia in the etiology of schizophrenia (version I), but it was subsequently reconceptualized to specify subcortical hyperdopaminergia with prefrontal hypodopaminergia (version II). However, these hypotheses focused too narrowly on dopamine itself, conflated psychosis and schizophrenia, and predated advances in the genetics, molecular biology, and imaging research in schizophrenia. Since version II, there have been over 6700 articles about dopamine and schizophrenia. We selectively review these data to provide an overview of the 5 critical streams of new evidence: neurochemical imaging studies, genetic evidence, findings on environmental risk factors, research into the extended phenotype, and animal studies. We synthesize this evidence into a new dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia-version III: the final common pathway. This hypothesis seeks to be comprehensive in providing a framework that links risk factors, including pregnancy and obstetric complications, stress and trauma, drug use, and genes, to increased presynaptic striatal dopaminergic function. It explains how a complex array of pathological, positron emission tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and other findings, such as frontotemporal structural and functional abnormalities and cognitive impairments, may converge neurochemically to cause psychosis through aberrant salience and lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The hypothesis has one major implication for treatment approaches. Current treatments are acting downstream of the critical neurotransmitter abnormality. Future drug development and research into etiopathogenesis should focus on identifying and manipulating the upstream factors that converge on the dopaminergic funnel point.
This article was published in Schizophr Bull
and referenced in Journal of Alzheimers Disease & Parkinsonism