Brain Chemistry Behind Schizophrenia

The brain is made up of nerve cells, called neurons, and chemicals, called neurotransmitters. An imbalance of one neurotransmitter, dopamine, is thought to cause the symptoms of schizophrenia. Recent studies suggest that serotonin, another neurotransmitter, may also play a significant role in causing the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Brain activity differs in a brain with schizophrenia and a brain without schizophrenia. In the brain with schizophrenia, far more neurotransmitters are released between neurons. Thus, the symptoms of schizophrenia occur.


The "dopamine hypothesis" has been the main theory regarding the cause of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Researchers believe that many of the symptoms of schizophrenia are a result of excess of dopamine in the brain. Anti psychotic medications block dopamine transmission and are used to treat and improve the symptoms of schizophrenia.


New theories suggest that the neurotransmitter serotonin may also play a role in causing the symptoms of schizophrenia. Some anti psychotic medications treat symptoms of schizophrenia by blocking dopamine and serotonin transmissions. Many patients who have not been helped by "dopamine only” medications have been helped by medications that affect both dopamine and serotonin transmissions, such as Clozaril, Risperdal and Zyprexa.