The neurobiology of treatment-resistant schizophrenia: paths to antipsychotic resistance and a roadmap for future research

NPJ Schizophr. 2020 Jan 7;6(1):1. doi: 10.1038/s41537-019-0090-z.


Treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS), the persistence of positive symptoms despite ≥2 trials of adequate dose and duration of antipsychotic medication with documented adherence, is a serious clinical problem with heterogeneous presentations. TRS can vary in its onset (at the first episode of psychosis or upon relapse), in its severity, and in the response to subsequent therapeutic interventions (i.e., clozapine, electroconvulsive therapy). The heterogeneity of TRS indicates that the underlying neurobiology of TRS may differ not only from treatment-responsive schizophrenia but also among patients with TRS. Several hypotheses have been proposed for the neurobiological mechanisms underlying TRS, including dopamine supersensitivity, hyperdopaminergic and normodopaminergic subtypes, glutamate dysregulation, inflammation and oxidative stress, and serotonin dysregulation. Research supporting these hypotheses is limited in part by variations in the criteria used to define TRS, as well as by the biological and clinical heterogeneity of TRS. Clinical trial designs for new treatments should be informed by this heterogeneity, and further clinical research is needed to more clearly understand the underlying neurobiology of TRS and to optimize treatment for patients with TRS.

Publication types

  • Review