This is a striking finding, but it is difficult to know what motivated the study or how to interpret the results. The study is very small and was probably of an exploratory rather than hypothesis-testing nature, making replication doubly important. It is also unclear what sort of biological changes may underlie the apparent loss of volume in the putamen—as the authors say, it is unlikely to be cell damage or vascular. A reversible change over such a short period of time suggests possible changes in cellular fluid balance. Regardless, these results on exposure to IV drug in young healthy men may bear no relation to the effects of the drug in the routine and usually oral treatment of patients with schizophrenia and related conditions.View all comments by Stephen Lawrie
I fully agree with the comment made by Stephen Lawrie on the paper of the Meyer-Lindenberg group (Tost et al., 2010) published in Nature Neursocience. In particular, I agree with his suggestion that cellular fluid balance may account for the haloperidol neuroplasticity finding in the striatum. This is because it is well known among psychiatrists with some pharmacology training that haloperidol has an effect on fluid balance. Canary stories (to borrow Victoria Wilcox's metaphor) with retrospective analysis of seven (!!) healthy subjects and without prior hypothesis that would have helped to account for potentially confounding variables (e.g., body fluid, electrolyte parameters, hormonal levels, etc.) in the study design should not be published. What we need in schizophrenia research are high-flying eagles—not canaries in golden cages (high-impact journals).
Tost H, Braus DF, Hakimi S, Ruf M, Vollmert C, Hohn F, Meyer-Lindenberg A. Acute D2 receptor blockade induces rapid, reversible remodeling in human cortical-striatal circuits. Nat Neurosci. 2010 Aug; 13(8):920-2. Abstract
View all comments by Georg Winterer