Neuropeptides are endogenous substances present in nerve cells and involved in nervous system functions. Neuropeptides are synthetized in large precursor proteins and several are formed in the same precursor. Neuropeptides affect learning and memory processes, social, sexual and maternal behavior, pain and addiction, body temperature, food and water intake e.a. In addition, neuropeptides possess trophic influences on the nervous system, neuroleptic-like andpsychostimulant-like activities. Disturbances in classical neurotransmitter activity as found in Parkinson's disease, psychoses, and dementia, may also be caused by disturbances in neuropeptide activity. In fact, alterations in the concentration of a number of neuropeptides in schizophrenia, depression, and dementia have been found.
Much work has been done during the last decade on the influence of neuropeptides in schizophrenia, autism, depression, and in various disorders associated with memory disturbances. These studies concern neuropeptides related to adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH), vasopressin- and endorphin-type neuropeptides, thyrotropic releasing hormone (TRH), and the C-terminal part of oxytocin Pro-Leu-Gly-NH2 (PLG). Several of these exert positive effects but in not more than 25% the response is clinically relevant. This may have to do with the severity of the disease and its chronicity. The modest effects may also be caused by the poor bioavailability of peptides and insufficient pharmacotherapeutic experience regarding dose, and duration of treatment.