Cholinergic contributions to the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia and the viability of cholinergic treatments

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Abstract

Effective treatment of the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia has remained an elusive goal. Despite the intense focus on treatments acting at or via cholinergic mechanisms, little remains known about the dynamic cholinergic abnormalities that contribute to the manifestation of the cognitive symptoms in patients. Evidence from basic neuroscientific and psychopharmacological investigations assists in proposing detailed cholinergic mechanisms and treatment targets for enhancement of attentional performance. Dynamic, cognitive performance-dependent abnormalities in cholinergic activity have been observed in animal models of the disorder and serve to further refine such proposals. Finally, the potential usefulness of individual groups of cholinergic drugs and important issues concerning the interactions between pro-cholinergic and antipsychotic treatments are addressed. The limited evidence available from patient studies and animal models indicates pressing research needs in order to guide the development of cholinergic treatments of the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.

This article is part of a Special Issue entitled ‘Schizophrenia’.

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