Apomorphine and the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia: a dilemma?

J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2001 May;26(3):203-20.


The dopamine (DA) hypothesis of schizophrenia implicates an enhancement of DA function in the pathophysiology of the disorder, at least in the genesis of positive symptoms. Accordingly, apomorphine, a directly acting DA receptor agonist, should display psychotomimetic properties. A review of the literature shows little or no evidence that apomorphine, in doses that stimulate postsynaptic DA receptors, induces psychosis in non-schizophrenic subjects or a relapse or exacerbation of psychotic symptoms in patients with schizophrenia. After a detailed review of the literature reporting psychotogenic effects of apomorphine in patients with Parkinson's disease, an interpretation of these data is difficult, in part because of several confounding factors, such as the concomitant use of drugs known to induce psychosis and the advanced state of the progressive neurological disorder. In the context of the DA hypothesis of schizophrenia, the limited ability of apomorphine to induce psychosis, in contrast to indirectly acting DA agonists that increase synaptic DA, may be explained by the relatively weak affinity of apomorphine for the D3 receptor compared with DA. Alternatively, enhancement of DA function, though necessary, may be insufficient by itself to induce psychosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apomorphine* / adverse effects
  • Apomorphine* / therapeutic use
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Dopamine / drug effects
  • Receptors, Dopamine / physiology*
  • Schizophrenia / chemically induced
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*


  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Apomorphine
  • Dopamine