Volume transmission in the CNS and its relevance for neuropsychopharmacology

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 1999 Apr;20(4):142-50. doi: 10.1016/s0165-6147(99)01343-7.


The terms 'wiring' and 'volume' transmission (WT and VT) have been introduced to provide a systematic categorization of intercellular communication in the brain. WT is one-to-one transmission and includes classical synapses, gap junctions and membrane juxtapositions, whereas VT is a one-to-many transmission and includes paracrine and endocrine-like transmissions in the brain extracellular space and cerebrospinal fluids. Any brain cell can participate in WT and VT and any kind of substance (e.g. ions, classical transmitters, peptides, neurosteroids) can be a signal in WT and VT. These concepts are relevant for the pharmacokinetics and actions of neuropsychoactive drugs. These drugs can be regarded as exogenous VT signals in that they diffuse in the cerebral extracellular space and are constrained there by the same factors that influence migration of endogenous VT signals. In addition, neuropsychoactive drugs can better mimic and more effectively interact with the relatively unconstrained VT-type transmissions than with the rigidly constrained WT mechanisms, such as synaptic transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Cell Communication* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission* / drug effects


  • Psychotropic Drugs