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CNS Drugs. 2001;15(11):853-70.

Histamine and betahistine in the treatment of vertigo: elucidation of mechanisms of action.

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Department of Integrative and Adaptative Neurobiology, University of Provence/Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Marseille, France.


The aim of this review is to provide clinicians with a picture of the mechanisms by which: histamine and histaminergic agonists act on the vestibular system both peripherally and centrally; and histaminergic agonists and antagonists interfere with the recovery process after peripheral vestibular lesion. We have focused on betahistine, a structural analogue of histamine with weak histamine H(1) receptor agonist and more potent H(3) receptor antagonist properties, to review the currently available data on the role of the histaminergic system in the recovery process after peripheral vestibular deficits and the effects of histamine analogues in the clinical treatment of vertigo. This review provides new insights into the basic mechanisms by which betahistine improves vestibular compensation in animal models of unilateral vestibular dysfunction, and elucidates particularly the mechanisms of action of this substance at the level of the CNS. It is proposed that betahistine may reduce peripherally the asymmetric functioning of the sensory vestibular organs in addition to increasing vestibulocochlear blood flow by antagonising local H(3) heteroreceptors. Betahistine acts centrally by enhancing histamine synthesis within tuberomammillary nuclei of the posterior hypothalamus and histamine release within vestibular nuclei through antagonism of H(3) autoreceptors. This mechanism, together with less specific effects of betahistine on alertness regulation through cerebral H(1) receptors, should promote and facilitate central vestibular compensation. Elucidation of the mechanisms of action of betahistine is of particular interest for the treatment of vestibular and cochlear disorders and vertigo.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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