Normalizing the Abnormal: Do Antipsychotic Drugs Push the Cortex Into an Unsustainable Metabolic Envelope?

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The use of antipsychotic medication to manage psychosis, principally in those with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, is well established. Antipsychotics are effective in normalizing positive symptoms of psychosis in the short term (delusions, hallucinations and disordered thought). Their long-term use is, however, associated with side effects, including several types of movement (extrapyramidal syndrome, dyskinesia, akathisia), metabolic and cardiac disorders. Furthermore, higher lifetime antipsychotic dose-years may be associated with poorer cognitive performance and blunted affect, although the mechanisms driving the latter associations are not well understood. In this article, we propose a novel model of the long-term effects of antipsychotic administration focusing on the changes in brain metabolic homeostasis induced by the medication. We propose here that the brain metabolic normalization, that occurs in parallel to the normalization of psychotic symptoms following antipsychotic treatment, may not ultimately be sustainable by the cerebral tissue of some patients; these patients may be characterized by already reduced oxidative metabolic capacity and this may push the brain into an unsustainable metabolic envelope resulting in tissue remodeling. To support this perspective, we will review the existing data on the brain metabolic trajectories of patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia as indexed using available neuroimaging tools before and after use of medication. We will also consider data from pre-clinical studies to provide mechanistic support for our model.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Nov 2019


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