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Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 1995;5 Suppl:11-23.

The role of serotonin in schizophrenia.

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Department of Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.


The hypothesis that the LSD psychosis and by inference schizophrenic psychoses are related to dysfunctions in central serotonergic systems, formulated by Woolley and Shaw in the early 1950s was the first testable theory of modern biological psychiatry. Initially, it did not get the scientific attention it deserved. First, because LSD fell into disrepute and was to all intents and purposes banned from human experimentation. Secondly, the antipsychotics were discovered in the same period, and it became clear that these compounds block dopaminergic transmission and hence for many years thereafter the dopaminergic system occupied center stage in biological schizophrenia research. Presently, interest in the relation between serotonin and schizophrenia has been revived, due to the development of serotonin-blocking agents that appear to exert therapeutic effects in schizophrenia. In this paper the evidence for and against a link between serotonergic defects and schizophrenia psychopathology is critically discussed. The conclusion to be reached is threefold. (1) Interruption of certain serotonergic circuits represents an antipsychotic principle. (2) Tentative evidence suggests the involvement of serotonergic dysfunctions in the pathogenesis of schizophrenic psychoses. (3) It is not yet known whether serotonergic lesions contribute directly to the occurrence of schizophrenic psychopathology or via alterations in the dopaminergic system.

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