Schizophrenia as a Disorder of Developmentally Reduced Synaptic Connectivity

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2000 Jul;57(7):637-48. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.57.7.637.


Recent postmortem and neuroimaging studies of schizophrenia delineate changes in brain structure and volume that appear to arise from a reduction of neuritic processes (such as dendrites and synapses) rather than loss of neuronal or glial cell bodies. To account for these findings, we propose a pathophysiological model of reduced synaptic connectivity arising from disturbances of brain development active during perinatal and adolescent periods. We review a computer simulation of the elimination of the synaptic connections that models normal cognitive development and psychotic symptom formation. We describe the model's key parameters and discuss how they can account for important aspects of schizophrenia, including its unique symptoms, short- and long-term course, typical age of onset, neurodevelopmental deficits, limited neurodegenerative progression, sex differences, and more. We discuss some of the model's predictions and questions raised for basic research, early detection, and preventive intervention.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age of Onset
  • Cell Count
  • Child
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / growth & development
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / pathology
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Synapses / pathology
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology