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Fed Proc. 1979 Oct;38(11):2462-7.

Catecholamine reward pathways and schizophrenia: the mechanism of the antipsychotic effect and the site of the primary disturbance.


Two catecholamine-containing pathways, the locus ceruleus system and the dopamine neurons arising from the ventral mid-brain, may be involved in reward. Dopamine neurons function as a system for energizing the organism's responses and directing them toward significant environmental stimuli, but the functions of the locus ceruleus system remain obscure. It appears increasingly likely that neuroleptic drugs exert their anti-psychotic effects in acute schizophrenia by blocking dopamine receptors, although the time course of the effect suggests that the mechanism is more complex than a simple reversal of a neurohumoral imbalance. Evidence from postmortem studies suggests that, at least in the chronic state, dopamine turnover is not increased, but that there may be an increase in postsynaptic receptor density in some cases, including some patients who apparently had not received medication in the year before death. The evidence is consistent with Olds and Travis' conjecture that "counteraction of positive feedback processes subserving positive reinforcement mechanisms may be a key to control of certain psychotic episodes".

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