Synaptic plasticity and dysconnection in schizophrenia

Biol Psychiatry. 2006 May 15;59(10):929-39. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.10.005. Epub 2006 Jan 19.


Current pathophysiological theories of schizophrenia highlight the role of altered brain connectivity. This dysconnectivity could manifest 1) anatomically, through structural changes of association fibers at the cellular level, and/or 2) functionally, through aberrant control of synaptic plasticity at the synaptic level. In this article, we review the evidence for these theories, focusing on the modulation of synaptic plasticity. In particular, we discuss how dysconnectivity, observed between brain regions in schizophrenic patients, could result from abnormal modulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-dependent plasticity by other neurotransmitter systems. We focus on the implication of the dysconnection hypothesis for functional imaging at the systems level. In particular, we review recent advances in measuring plasticity in the human brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) that can be used to address dysconnectivity in schizophrenia. Promising experimental paradigms include perceptual and reinforcement learning. We describe how theoretical and causal models of brain responses might contribute to a mechanistic understanding of synaptic plasticity in schizophrenia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / physiology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Contingent Negative Variation / physiology
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • N-Methylaspartate / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Glutamic Acid
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • Acetylcholine
  • Dopamine