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Expert Opin Drug Discov. 2011 Feb;6(2):109-127.

In vivo brain microdialysis: advances in neuropsychopharmacology and drug discovery.

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Pharmaceutical Sciences-Neurotherapeutics Focus Group, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, Rootstown, OH 44272, USA.



Microdialysis is an important in vivo sampling technique, useful in the assay of extracellular tissue fluid. The technique has both pre-clinical and clinical applications but is most widely used in neuroscience. The in vivo microdialysis technique allows measurement of neurotransmitters such as acetycholine (ACh), the biogenic amines including dopamine (DA), norepinephrine (NE) and serotonin (5-HT), amino acids such as glutamate (Glu) and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), as well as the metabolites of the aforementioned neurotransmitters, and neuropeptides in neuronal extracellular fluid in discrete brain regions of laboratory animals such as rodents and non-human primates.


In this review we present a brief overview of the principles and procedures related to in vivo microdialysis and detail the use of this technique in the pre-clinical measurement of drugs designed to be used in the treatment of chemical addiction, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD) and as well as psychiatric disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia. This review offers insight into the tremendous utility and versatility of this technique in pursuing neuropharmacological investigations as well its significant potential in rational drug discovery.


In vivo microdialysis is an extremely versatile technique, routinely used in the neuropharmacological investigation of drugs used for the treatment of neurological disorders. This technique has been a boon in the elucidation of the neurochemical profile and mechanism of action of several classes of drugs especially their effects on neurotransmitter systems. The exploitation and development of this technique for drug discovery in the near future will enable investigational new drug candidates to be rapidly moved into the clinical trial stages and to market thus providing new successful therapies for neurological diseases that are currently in demand.

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