Schizophrenia: from neurochemistry to circuits, symptoms and treatments

Oliver Howes*, Bernard Bukala, Katherine Beck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Schizophrenia is a leading cause of global disability. Current pharmacotherapy for the disease predominantly uses one mechanism — dopamine D2 receptor blockade — but often shows limited efficacy and poor tolerability. These limitations highlight the need to better understand the aetiology of the disease to aid the development of alternative therapeutic approaches. Here, we review the latest meta-analyses and other findings on the neurobiology of prodromal, first-episode and chronic schizophrenia, and the link to psychotic symptoms, focusing on imaging evidence from people with the disorder. This evidence demonstrates regionally specific neurotransmitter alterations, including higher glutamate and dopamine measures in the basal ganglia, and lower glutamate, dopamine and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in cortical regions, particularly the frontal cortex, relative to healthy individuals. We consider how dysfunction in cortico-thalamo-striatal–midbrain circuits might alter brain information processing to underlie psychotic symptoms. Finally, we discuss the implications of these findings for developing new, mechanistically based treatments and precision medicine for psychotic symptoms, as well as negative and cognitive symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-35
JournalNature Reviews Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2023


  • Brain Imaging
  • Schizophrenia


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