Biomarkers for the effects of antipsychotic drugs in healthy volunteers

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2001 Feb;51(2):119-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2001.01308.x.


Studies of novel antipsychotics in healthy volunteers are traditionally concerned with kinetics and tolerability, but useful information may also be obtained from biomarkers of clinical endpoints. A useful biomarker should meet the following requirements: a consistent response across studies and antipsychotics; a clear response of the biomarker to a therapeutic dose; a dose-response relationship; a plausible relationship between biomarker, pharmacology and pathogenesis. In the current review, all individual tests found in studies of neuroleptics in healthy volunteers since 1966 were progressively evaluated for compliance with these requirements. A MedLine search yielded 65 different studies, investigating the effects of 23 different neuroleptics on 101 different (variants of) neuropsychological tests, which could be clustered into seven neuropsychological domains. Subjective and objective measures of alertness, and of visual-visuomotor-auditory and motor skills were most sensitive to antipsychotics, although over half of all the studies failed to show statistically significant differences from placebo. The most consistent effects were observed using prolactin response and saccadic eye movements, where 96% and 83% of all studies resp. showed statistically significant effects. The prolactin inducing dose equivalencies relative to haloperidol of 19 different antipsychotic agents correlated with the lowest recommended daily maintenance dose (r(2) = 0.52). This relationship could reflect the clinical practice of aiming for maximum tolerated levels, or it could represent a common basis behind prolactin release and antipsychotic activity (probably D2-receptor antagonism). The number of tests used in human psychopharmacology appears to be excessive. Future studies should look for the most specific and sensitive test within each of the domains that are most susceptible to neuroleptics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic
  • Eye Movements / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Prolactin / analysis*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Prolactin