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CNS Drugs. 2009 Aug;23(8):681-91. doi: 10.2165/00023210-200923080-00005.

GABA(B) receptors, schizophrenia and sleep dysfunction: a review of the relationship and its potential clinical and therapeutic implications.

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  • 1Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, New York, USA.


Evidence for an intrinsic relationship between sleep, cognition and the symptomatic manifestations of schizophrenia is accumulating. This review presents evidence for the possible utility of GABA(B) receptor agonists for the treatment of subjective and objective sleep abnormalities related to schizophrenia. At the phenotypic level, sleep disturbance occurs in 16-30% of patients with schizophrenia and is related to reduced quality of life and poor coping skills. On the neurophysiological level, studies suggest that sleep deficits reflect a core component of schizophrenia. Specifically, slow-wave sleep deficits, which are inversely correlated with cognition scores, are seen. Moreover, sleep plays an increasingly well documented role in memory consolidation in schizophrenia. Correlations of slow-wave sleep deficits with impaired reaction time and declarative memory have also been reported. Thus, both behavioural insomnia and sleep architecture are critical therapeutic targets in patients with schizophrenia. However, long-term treatment with antipsychotics often results in residual sleep dysfunction and does not improve slow-wave sleep, and adjunctive GABA(A) receptor modulators, such as benzodiazepines and zolpidem, can impair sleep architecture and cognition in schizophrenia. GABA(B) receptor agonists have therapeutic potential in schizophrenia. These agents have minimal effect on rapid eye movement sleep while increasing slow-wave sleep. Preclinical associations with increased expression of genes related to slow-wave sleep production and circadian rhythm function have also been reported. GABA(B) receptor deficits result in a sustained hyperdopaminergic state and can be reversed by a GABA(B) receptor agonist. Genetic, postmortem and electrophysiological studies also associate GABA(B) receptors with schizophrenia. While studies thus far have not shown significant effects, prior focus on the use of GABA(B) receptor agonists has been on the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, with minimal investigation of GABA(B) receptor agonists such as baclofen or gamma-hydroxybutyric acid and their effects on sleep architecture, cognition and negative symptoms in patients with schizophrenia. Further study is needed.

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