NMDA receptor and schizophrenia: a brief history

Schizophr Bull. 2012 Sep;38(5):920-6. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbs076.


Although glutamate was first hypothesized to be involved in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia in the 1980s, it was the demonstration that N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists, the dissociative anesthetics, could replicate the full range of psychotic, negative, cognitive, and physiologic features of schizophrenia in normal subjects that placed the "NMDA receptor hypofunction hypothesis" on firm footing. Additional support came from the demonstration that a variety of agents that enhanced NMDA receptor function at the glycine modulatory site significantly reduced negative symptoms and variably improved cognition in patients with schizophrenia receiving antipsychotic drugs. Finally, persistent blockade of NMDA receptors recreates in experimental animals the critical pathologic features of schizophrenia including downregulation of parvalbumin-positive cortical GABAergic neurons, pyramidal neuron dendritic dysgenesis, and reduced spine density.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / history*
  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / history*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Glutamic Acid / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Neurosciences / history*
  • Phencyclidine Abuse / history*
  • Psychopharmacology / history*
  • Psychoses, Substance-Induced / history*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / history*
  • Schizophrenia / history*
  • Translational Medical Research / history*


  • Anesthetics, Dissociative
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Glutamic Acid