This review reports on the pharmacodynamics of the new antipsychotic risperidone. The primary action of risperidone is serotonin 5-HT2 receptor blockade as shown by displacement of radioligand binding (Ki: 0.16 nM), activity on isolated tissues (EC50: 0.5 nM), and antagonism of peripherally (ED50: 0.0011 mg/kg) and centrally (ED50: 0.014 mg/kg) acting 5-HT2 receptor agonists in rats. Risperidone is at least as potent as the specific 5-HT2 receptor antagonist ritanserin in these tests. Risperidone is also a potent dopamine D2 receptor antagonist as indicated by displacement of radioligand binding (Ki: 1.4 nM), activity in isolated striatal slices (IC50: 0.89 nM), and antagonism of peripherally (ED50: 0.0057 mg/kg in dogs) and centrally acting D2 receptor agonists (ED50: 0.056-0.15 mg/kg in rats). Risperidone shows all effects common to D2 antagonists, including enhancement of prolactin release. However, some central effects such as catalepsy and blockade of motor activity occur at high doses only. Risperidone is 4-10 times less potent than haloperidol as a central D2 antagonist in rats and it differs from haloperidol by the following characteristics: predominant 5-HT2 antagonism; LSD antagonism; effects on sleep; smooth dose-response curves for D2 antagonism; synergism of combined 5-HT2/D2 antagonism; pronounced effects on amphetamine-induced oxygen consumption; increased social interaction; and pronounced effects on dopamine (DA) turnover. Risperidone displays similar activity at pre- and postsynaptic D2 receptors and at D2 receptors from various rat brain regions. The binding affinity for D4 and D3 receptors is 5 and 9 times weaker, respectively, than for D2 receptors; interaction with D1 receptors occurs only at very high concentrations. The pharmacological profile of risperidone includes interaction with histamine H1 and alpha-adrenergic receptors but the compound is devoid of significant interaction with cholinergic and a variety of other types of receptors. Risperidone has excellent oral activity, a rapid onset, and a 24-h duration of action. Its major metabolite, 9-hydroxyrisperidone, closely mimics risperidone in pharmacodynamics. Risperidone can be characterized as a potent D2 antagonist with predominant 5HT2 antagonistic activity and optimal pharmacokinetic properties.