Inflammation in Schizophrenia: Pathogenetic Aspects and Therapeutic Considerations

Schizophr Bull. 2018 Aug 20;44(5):973-982. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sby024.


This paper discusses the current evidence from animal and human studies for a central role of inflammation in schizophrenia. In animal models, pre- or perinatal elicitation of the immune response may increase immune reactivity throughout life, and similar findings have been described in humans. Levels of pro-inflammatory markers, such as cytokines, have been found to be increased in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of patients with schizophrenia. Numerous epidemiological and clinical studies have provided evidence that various infectious agents are risk factors for schizophrenia and other psychoses. For example, a large-scale epidemiological study performed in Denmark clearly showed that severe infections and autoimmune disorders are such risk factors. The vulnerability-stress-inflammation model may help to explain the role of inflammation in schizophrenia because stress can increase pro-inflammatory cytokines and may even contribute to a chronic pro-inflammatory state. Schizophrenia is characterized by risk genes that promote inflammation and by environmental stress factors and alterations of the immune system. Typical alterations of dopaminergic, serotonergic, noradrenergic, and glutamatergic neurotransmission described in schizophrenia have also been found in low-level neuroinflammation and consequently may be key factors in the generation of schizophrenia symptoms. Further support for the relevance of a low-level neuroinflammatory process in schizophrenia is provided by the loss of central nervous system volume and microglial activation demonstrated in neuroimaging studies. Last but not least, the benefit of anti-inflammatory medications found in some studies and the intrinsic anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of antipsychotics provide further support for the role of inflammation in this debilitating disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation* / complications
  • Inflammation* / drug therapy
  • Inflammation* / immunology
  • Schizophrenia* / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia* / etiology
  • Schizophrenia* / immunology
  • Schizophrenia* / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents