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Schizophrenia and the disconnection hypothesis.

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  • 1Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, Institute of Neurology, London, UK.


This article reviews the disconnection hypothesis of schizophrenia and presents a mechanistic account of how dysfunctional integration among neuronal systems might arise. This neurobiological account is based on some simple observations about schizophrenia and the central role that neuronal plasticity plays in shaping the connections, and the ensuing dynamics, that underlie brain function. The particular hypothesis put forward here is that the pathophysiology of schizophrenia is expressed at the level of modulation of associative changes in synaptic efficacy, specifically the modulation of plasticity in those brain systems that are responsible for learning, memory and emotion. This modulation is mediated by ascending neurotransmitter systems that (i) have been implicated in schizophrenia and (ii) are known to be involved in consolidating synaptic connections during learning. The proposed pathophysiology would translate, in functional terms, into a disruption of the reinforcement of adaptive behaviour that is consistent with the disintegrative aspects of schizophrenic neuropsychology.

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