What does olanzapine do to the brain?

Olanzapine is a medication that is commonly used to treat mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. One of the key mechanisms of action of olanzapine is its effect on the brain. In this article, we will explore what olanzapine does to the brain, drawing on studies and an analytical perspective.

Dopamine and Serotonin

Olanzapine works by blocking dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in reward and pleasure, while serotonin is involved in mood regulation. By blocking these receptors, olanzapine can help regulate mood and reduce symptoms of mental health disorders.


Another way that olanzapine affects the brain is through its effect on neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to experiences. Studies have shown that olanzapine can increase neuroplasticity in certain areas of the brain, which may contribute to its therapeutic effects (Woo et al., 2015).

Gray Matter Volume

Olanzapine has also been shown to affect the volume of gray matter in the brain. Gray matter refers to the parts of the brain that are rich in nerve cell bodies and synapses. Studies have found that olanzapine can increase gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making and social behavior (Molina et al., 2014).

Blood-Brain Barrier

Olanzapine can also affect the blood-brain barrier, which is a protective barrier that separates the brain from the bloodstream. Studies have shown that olanzapine can increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, which may contribute to its therapeutic effects (Banks et al., 2004).


In conclusion, olanzapine affects the brain in a number of ways, including its effect on dopamine and serotonin receptors, neuroplasticity, gray matter volume, and the blood-brain barrier. By understanding these mechanisms of action, we can better understand how olanzapine works and why it is effective in treating mental health disorders. While olanzapine is not without its potential risks and side effects, studies have shown that it can be a valuable tool in managing mental health conditions and improving quality of life for those who need it.

Studies have provided evidence supporting the mechanisms of action of olanzapine. For example, a study by Woo et al. (2015) found that olanzapine increased neuroplasticity in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory. Another study by Molina et al. (2014) found that olanzapine increased gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex. These studies provide evidence of the specific ways that olanzapine affects the brain and contribute to our understanding of its therapeutic effects.

There are various forms of drugs available, such as tablets or liquids, and each may have a separate patient information leaflet (PIL) for different doses. It is important to refer to the PIL for the specific form and dose of the drug that you have been prescribed.

You can search for further information and PILs on websites such as:

  • The British National Formulary (BNF)
  • Electronic medicines compendium (emc)
  • The National Library of Medicine's DailyMed
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 
  • Different drug forms like tablets or liquids have specific patient information leaflets (PIL) for various doses. Refer to the PIL for your prescribed drug form and dose.

    Search for PILs on websites like:


    • ANSM (Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé): ansm.sante.fr


    • AEMPS (Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios): aemps.gob.es


    • BfArM (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte): bfarm.de


    For questions about your medication:

    • Consult your doctor, a healthcare professional, or a pharmacist


    • Contact SOS Médecins: 3624
    • For mental health support, contact SOS Suicide: 01 45 39 40 00

    Belgium (French)

    Switzerland (French)

    • La Main Tendue: 143
    • Website: 143.ch

    Canada (French)

    • Centre de prévention du suicide du Québec: 1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277-3553)
    • Website: cpsquebec.ca


    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Teléfono de la Esperanza: 717 003 717


    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Telefonseelsorge: 0800 111 0 111 or 0800 111 0 222


    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Telefono Amico: 199 284 284


    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact 113 Zelfmoordpreventie: 0800 0113


    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Sos Voz Amiga: 21 354 45 45, 91 280 26 69, or 96 352 46 60

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