Background: The histamine-3 receptor (H3R) is an auto- and heteroreceptor that inhibits the release of histamine and other neurotransmitters. Post-mortem evidence has found altered H3R expression in patients with psychotic disorders, which may underlie cognitive impairment associated with schizophrenia (CIAS). Aims: We used positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to compare brain uptake of an H3R selective tracer between patients with schizophrenia and matched controls (healthy individuals). Regions of interest included the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and striatum. We explored correlations between tracer uptake and symptoms, including cognitive domains. Methods: A total of 12 patients and 12 matched controls were recruited to the study and were assessed with psychiatric and cognitive rating scales. They received a PET scan using the H3R-specific radioligand [11C]MK-8278 to determine H3R availability. Results: There was no statistically significant difference in tracer uptake between patients and controls in the DLPFC (t19 = 0.79, p = 0.44) or striatum (t21 = 1.18, p = 0.25). An exploratory analysis found evidence for lower volume of distribution in the left cuneus (pFWE-corrected = 0.01). DLPFC tracer uptake was strongly correlated with cognition in controls (trail making test (TMT) A: r = 0.77, p = 0.006; TMT B: rho = 0.74, p = 0.01), but not in patients (TMT A: r = −0.18, p = 0.62; TMT B: rho = −0.06, p = 0.81). Conclusions: These findings indicate H3R in the DLPFC might play a role in executive function and this is disrupted in schizophrenia in the absence of major alterations in H3R availability as assessed using a selective radiotracer for H3R. This provides further evidence for the role of H3R in CIAS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011-1022
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number10
Early online date16 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • cognitive impairment associated with schizophrenia
  • executive function
  • histamine 3 receptor
  • Positron emission tomography
  • schizophrenia


Dive into the research topics of 'The histamine system and cognitive function: An in vivo H3 receptor PET imaging study in healthy volunteers and patients with schizophrenia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this