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Clin EEG Neurosci. 2006 Apr;37(2):66-80.

EEG topography and tomography (LORETA) in the classification and evaluation of the pharmacodynamics of psychotropic drugs.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Vienna, Austria.


By multi-lead computer-assisted quantitative analyses of human scalp-recorded electroencephalogram (QEEG) in combination with certain statistical procedures (quantitative pharmaco-EEG) and mapping techniques (pharmaco-EEG mapping or topography), it is possible to classify psychotropic substances and objectively evaluate their bioavailability at the target organ, the human brain. Specifically, one may determine at an early stage of drug development whether a drug is effective on the central nervous system (CNS) compared with placebo, what its clinical efficacy will be like, at which dosage it acts, when it acts and the equipotent dosages of different galenic formulations. Pharmaco-EEG maps of neuroleptics, antidepressants, tranquilizers, hypnotics, psychostimulants and nootropics/cognition-enhancing drugs will be described. Methodological problems, as well as the relationships between acute and chronic drug effects, alterations in normal subjects and patients, CNS effects and therapeutic efficacy will be discussed. Imaging of drug effects on the regional brain electrical activity of healthy subjects by means of EEG tomography such as low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORETA) has been used for identifying brain areas predominantly involved in psychopharmacological action. This will be shown for the representative drugs of the four main psychopharmacological classes, such as 3 mg haloperidol for neuroleptics, 20 mg citalopram for antidepressants, 2 mg lorazepam for tranquilizers and 20 mg methylphenidate for psychostimulants. LORETA demonstrates that these psychopharmacological classes affect brain structures differently. By considering these differences between psychotropic drugs and placebo in normal subjects, as well as between mental disorder patients and normal controls, it may be possible to choose the optimum drug for a specific patient according to a key-lock principle, since the drug should normalize the deviant brain function. Thus, pharmaco-EEG topography and tomography are valuable methods in human neuropsychopharmacology, clinical psychiatry and neurology.

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