How Antipsychotics Work From Receptor to Reality
How does a small molecule blocking a few receptors change a patients’ passionately held paranoid belief that the FBI is out to get him? Normal dopamine transmission has a role in predicting novel rewards and in marking and responding to motivationally salient stimuli. Abnormal dopamine transmission alters these processes and results in an aberrant sense of novelty and inappropriate assignment of salience leading to the experience of psychosis. Antipsychotics improve psychosis by diminishing this abnormal transmission by blocking the dopamine D2/3 receptor (not D1 or D4), and although several brain regions may be involved, it is suggested that the ventral striatal regions (analog of the nucleus accumbens in animals) may have a particularly critical role.