The disconnection hypothesis

Schizophr Res. 1998 Mar 10;30(2):115-25. doi: 10.1016/s0920-9964(97)00140-0.


This article reviews the disconnection hypothesis of schizophrenia and presents a mechanistic account of how dysfunctional integration among neuronal systems might arise. This neurobiological account is based on the central role played by neuronal plasticity in shaping the connections and the ensuing dynamics that underlie brain function. The particular hypothesis put forward here is that the pathophysiology of schizophrenia is expressed at the level of modulation of associative changes in synaptic efficacy; specifically the modulation of plasticity in those brain systems responsible for emotional learning and memory, in the post-natal period. This modulation is mediated by ascending neurotransmitter systems that: (i) have been implicated in schizophrenia; and (ii) are known to be involved in consolidating synaptic connections during learning. The proposed pathophysiology would translate, in functional terms, into a disruption of the reinforcement of adaptive behaviour that is consistent with the disintegrative aspects of schizophrenic neuropsychology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Schizophrenia / pathology
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*