Neuroimaging of Neurotransmitter Alterations in Schizophrenia and Its Relevance for Negative Symptoms

  • Andreas HeinzEmail author
  • Stefan Borgwardt
  • Lynn E. DeLisi


Neurotransmitter imaging in schizophrenia research has for a long time focused on dopaminergic neurotransmission, based on the clinical observation of the effects of neuroleptics on dopamine D2-receptors [1]. Dopaminergic neurotransmission can best be assessed using positron emission tomography (PET) or single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), with tracers available for dopamine synthesis capacity, dopamine D1 and D2 receptor imaging, and the assessment of transporter availability. Most schizophrenia theories suggest that dopamine dysfunction is embedded in neurocircuits linking the prefrontal cortex with the striatum and thalamus in multiple neurocircuits that control motivational and cognitive aspects of complex behavior [2, 3]. Key neurotransmitters in these neurocircuits are glutamate for excitatory and GABA for inhibitory effects, and concentrations of these neurotransmitters have mainly been assessed using spectroscopy, also in combination with PET or SPECT for simultaneous measurement of striatal dopaminergic neurotransmission [4]. Spectroscopy has the disadvantage of assessing glutamate independent of whether or not this molecule is directly involved in neurotransmission. Further neurotransmitters assessed in schizophrenia research range from serotonin to acetylcholine; however, most research to date has focused on glutamate-dopamine interactions [5, 6].


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Heinz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefan Borgwardt
    • 2
  • Lynn E. DeLisi
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyCharité Campus Mitte, Charite University MedicineBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry (UPK)University of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.VA Boston Healthcare SystemHarvard Medical SchoolBrocktonUSA

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