Monoamine neurotransmitter systems are widely thought to be involved in the pathophysiology of affective disorders and schizophrenia and the mechanism of action of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs. Previous clinical studies have focused on individual monoamine function in isolation, even though a large number of preclinical studies have demonstrated that monoamine neurotransmitter systems interact with one another. In the present paper, preclinical data on monoamine neurotransmitter interactions are reviewed, and two methods for examining monoamine neurotransmitter system interactions in clinical data are presented. One of the best replicated findings in biological psychiatry is that monoamine metabolites in CSF correlate with one another. The degree of correlation may be in part a measure of the degree of interaction between the parent monoamine neurotransmitter systems. Another approach to studying interactions is the use of HVA/5HIAA and HVA/MHPG ratios as an index of interactions between 5HT-DA and NE-DA. When these methods are applied in schizophrenia, patients are found to have decreased monoamine metabolite correlations compared to normal controls. Metabolite correlations increase significantly after antipsychotic treatment, and the HVA/5HIAA and HVA/MHPG ratios also increase, suggesting that neuroleptics may act in part by strengthening interactions between monoamines. BPRS ratings are negatively correlated with HVA/5HIAA and HVA/MHPG so that patients with higher ratios have fewer symptoms, particularly after treatment. These results provide direct experimental support for hypotheses suggesting that interactions between monoamine neurotransmitters are important in schizophrenia. Some of the effects of the atypical neuroleptic, clozapine, on metabolite correlations and ratios are also discussed.
- Monoamine neurotransmitter systems
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