anti-convulsant An agent designed to reduce nervous system irritability and reactivity by changing sodium or calcium channel activity.
antidepressant An agent designed to treat depressed mood by altering metabolism and the transmission of neurotransmitters such as serotonin or norepinephrine.
anti-psychotic An agent designed to treat psychotic thought processes (e.g., cognitive disorganization, paranoid thinking) by altering the metabolism of dopamine, among other neurotransmit-ters.
bipolar disorder A major psychiatric disorder presumptively caused by a neurotransmitter imbalance, resulting in impairment of judgment and dramatic swings in mood from highly energized irritability to despair.
dementia Any one of the usually progressive, organic brain disorders characterized by disorganized thinking, severe memory dysfunction, and eventual functional debility.
dependence The process wherein an individual persistently uses a deleterious substance in order to avoid withdrawal effects (which are aversive) in the face of tolerance, which requires the use of progressively larger amounts of the substance to achieve the desired pleasurable effect.
depression A psychiatric disorder caused by aberrant metabolism of one or more neurotransmitters, resulting in persistent blue mood, low energy, slowing of cognitive tempo, and difficulty maintaining functional status.
drug Any externally administered agent that induces some biological response.
dyssomnia A disorder characterized by difficulty initiating or maintaining a normal pattern of sleep and waking.
neuroleptic An old term referring to pharmacologic agents designed to treat psychosis by inhibiting dopamine neurotransmission.
neuron A highly specialized type of tissue that has the capability to conduct electrical impulses via changes in sodium and calcium channels, thus allowing for communication from one site to another.
neurotransmitter A biochemical substance, usually a protein or a protein containing compound, that transmits information from one part of the nervous system to another.
schizophrenia The brain disease presumptively caused by aberrant dopamine neurotransmission with an onset usually in early young adulthood, characterized by cognitive disorganization, severe deficits in social functioning, and, often, delusions and hallucinations.
seizure A paroxysmal burst of electrical activity in the brain that lacks organization and focus, usually resulting in involuntary movements.
Neuropharmacology is the medical science field that examines the effects of pharmacologic agents (i.e., drugs) on the nervous system. Although the field is quite broad, encompassing both animal and human studies and both basic "bench" science and clinical science, the focus of this article is on the latter. Our perspective throughout this article is on those phar-macologic agents that are used to treat disease processes in the human nervous system. This group of diseases is also rather broad and falls under the purview of multiple medical fields, including psychiatry, neuropsychiatry, and neurology. The emphasis here, thus, is on clinical neuropharmacology or what
Encyclopedia of the Human Brain Volume 3
Copyright 2002, Elsevier Science (USA).
could be termed "neuropsychopharmacology." The organization of the article is designed to reflect the emphasis on clinical neuropharmacology. By following a concise and simplified but, hopefully, reasonably inclusive discussion of the basic principles of neuroscience that underlie neuropharmacology, the reader will be oriented to the basic pathological processes Transduction encountered in psychiatry and neurology. The section on psychiatric disorders will review mood and thought disorders, the neurotransmitter imbalances thought to produce them, and the drug therapies that contemporary psychiatrists use to treat them. Neuropsychia-tric disorders within our coverage include sleep disorders, cognitive deficit disorders, traumatic brain injury, and chemical dependence disorders. Finally, we will review the pharmacologic basis and treatment of neurological disorders, including seizure disorders, movement disorders, and headaches. This organization rather clearly reflects the clinical emphasis of the Amplification article. There is, of course, an enormous body of knowledge and literature on the basic science aspects of neuropharmacology. It is, however, beyond the scope of this article, and the reader who is interested in exploring that field is referred to the Suggested Reading section at the end of the article.
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