Background: Atypical antipsychotics, such as risperidone, have been shown to be more effective for the treatment of the symptoms of schizophrenia and have a greater beneficial effect on neurocognition compared to the conventional antipsychotics. The present study used [(15)O]H(2)O positron emission tomography imaging of regional cerebral blood flow to examine and compare the effects of haloperidol and risperidone on brain function.
Methods: Thirty-two subjects with schizophrenia participated in the study. Each subject was scanned in a medication-free state, and after being on a stable clinically assigned dose of either risperidone or haloperidol for 3 weeks. The off-medication scan was subtracted from the on-medication scan, using a within-subjects design. A randomization analysis was used to determine differences between the effects of haloperidol and risperidone on regional cerebral blood flow.
Results: Haloperidol was associated with a significantly greater increase in regional cerebral blood flow in the left putamen and posterior cingulate, and a significantly greater decrease in regional cerebral blood flow in frontal regions compared to risperidone. Risperidone was associated with a significantly greater decrease in regional cerebral blood flow in the cerebellum bilaterally compared to haloperidol.
Conclusions: The results show that risperidone and haloperidol have significantly different effects on brain function, which may be related to their differences in efficacy and side effects. Further work is required to more precisely determine the mechanisms by which different antipsychotic medications exert their therapeutic effects on the clinical symptoms and cognition in schizophrenia. These findings emphasize the importance of controlling for both medication status and the individual antipsychotic in neuroimaging studies.