Schizophrenia is one of the most severe psychiatric diseases noted for its chronic and often debilitating processes; affecting approximately 1% of the worlds population, while its etiology and therapeutic strategies still remain elusive. In the 1950s, the discovery of antipsychotic effects of haloperidol and chlorpromazine shifted the paradigm of schizophrenia. These drugs proved to be antagonists of dopamine D2 receptor (D2R), thus dopamine system dysfunction came to be hypothesized in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and D2R antagonism against dopamine neurons has been considered as the primary therapeutic target for schizophrenia. In addition, abnormalities of glutamatergic neurons have been indicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. On the other hand, recent neuroimaging studies have shown that not only dementia but also schizophrenic patients have a significant volume reduction of some specific regions in the brain, which indicates that schizophrenia may involve some neurodegenerative process. Microglia, major sources of various inflammatory cytokines and free radicals such as superoxide and nitric oxide (NO) in the CNS, play a crucial role in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia. Recent postmortem and positron emission computed tomography (PET) studies have indicated that activated microglia may be present in schizophrenic patients. Recent in vitro studies have suggested the anti-inflammatory effects of antipsychotics on microglial activation. In this article, we review the anti-inflammatory effects of antipsychotics on microglia, and propose a novel therapeutic hypothesis of schizophrenia from the perspective of microglial modulation.
Keywords: Antipsychotics, schizophrenia, microglia, inflammation, cytokines, free radicals, oxidative stress, dopamine D2 receptors, nitric oxide, PET, CNS
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