Neuropeptides: Animal behaviour and human psychopathology

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Animal studies have demonstrated that neuropeptides modulate nervous system functions. It has been postulated that disturbances in neuropeptide systems may be aetiological factors in psychiatric and neurological disorders. Neuropeptides related to ACTH/MSH, including ORG 2766, increase motivation and attention and facilitate recovery processes after nerve damage. These peptides may be effective during the early stage of dementia. Vasopressin and related peptides improve memory processes in animals and humans. In addition, these peptides influence social behaviour, mood and addictive behaviour. The non-opioid γ-type endorphins have neurolepticlike activities in animals and antipsychotic effects in a category of schizophrenic patients. Peptides related to CCK have also been found to be effective in these patients. Some neuropeptides, e.g. TRH and PLG, have been reported to exert antidepressant effects. Further research may eventually produce neuropeptides with therapeutic action in psychiatric and neurological diseases.

Parts of this article were presented on the occasion of the inauguration ceremony of the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Mainz on April 2 and 3, 1987