What is Neuropsychopharmacology?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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Neuropsychopharmacology is a field of study that combines the foundations of both psychopharmacology and neuroscience. Psychopharmacology is a science that involves the possible effects of drugs on the brain and the behavior they may cause, while neuroscience is the study of the nervous system and the process of how nerves control impulses and behavior. One of the main purposes of this interdisciplinary science is to definitively conclude the connections between certain drugs and how they affect the brain in order to develop new drugs to treat mental health conditions and neurological disorders.

The brain controls impulses through the movement of neurotransmitters throughout the body. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are responsible for conveying messages to nerve cells throughout the body in order to trigger impulses. Abnormalities in the transmission process are thought to be the contributing factor to mental health conditions, as well as conditions, such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, that cause motor skill malfunctioning. Neuropsychopharmacology generally aims to study the way different drugs affect the functioning of neurotransmitters as a means to come up with new drugs to help treat various neurological conditions.


Neuropsychopharmacology research studies tend to focus mainly on a variety of mental health conditions. These can include psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, in which a person becomes completely detached from reality, or mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, as well as sleep disorders and anxiety disorders, are also often the topic of research for new and more effective medications.

One of the central foundations of neuropsychopharmacology is the study of how drugs affect the brain as well as uncontrollable impulses and behavior. During research, drugs are generally observed to determine if they change the activity of neurotransmitters in any way and thus, lead to changes in mood or behavior. A commonly prescribed medication that is often regularly studied are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). These types of drugs help stabilize levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being and whose low levels may contribute to anxiety and mood disorders. It is not often known exactly how or why drugs like SSRIs work, so this interdisciplinary science tends to aim to discover definitive answers.

Critics of this interdisciplinary science believe that there has not been enough conclusive research in determining how the brain’s mechanisms become abnormal. They often cite inconsistencies in research findings when it comes to neurological disorders, such as different conclusions based on gender, age, or genetics. Since one of the main objectives of the science is to determine the biological aspects that cause abnormal brain impulses and lead to changes in behavior, critics may claim that this field of study has not proven to be successful.


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