Does the dopamine hypothesis explain schizophrenia?

Chi Ieong Lau, Han Cheng Wang, Rong-Long Shiu, Mu En Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


The dopamine hypothesis has been the cornerstone in the research and clinical practice of schizophrenia. With the initial emphasis on the role of excessive dopamine, the hypothesis has evolved to a concept of combining prefrontal hypodopaminergia and striatal hyperdopaminergia, and subsequently to the present aberrant salience hypothesis. This article provides a brief overview of the development and evidence of the dopamine hypothesis. It will argue that the current model of aberrant salience explains psychosis in schizophrenia and provides a plausible linkage between the pharmacological and cognitive aspects of the disease. Despite the privileged role of dopamine hypothesis in psychosis, its pathophysiological rather than etiological basis, its limitations in defining symptoms other than psychosis, as well as the evidence of other neurotransmitters such as glutamate and adenosine, prompt us to a wider perspective of the disease. Finally, dopamine does explain the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, but not necessarily the cause per se. Rather, dopamine acts as the common final pathway of a wide variety of predisposing factors, either environmental, genetic, or both, that lead to the disease. Other neurotransmitters, such as glutamate and adenosine, may also collaborate with dopamine to give rise to the entire picture of schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-400
Number of pages12
JournalReviews in the Neurosciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Aberrant salience
  • Dopamine
  • Dopamine hypothesis
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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