Dr Anthony Hannan, along with Dr Caitlin McOmish, Emma Burrows and colleagues, characterised a genetically altered mouse and discovered that it had schizophrenia-like behaviours, including learning and memory problems, the inability to process complex information, and abnormal responses to particular sensory stimuli.
The scientists found the mouse’s condition significantly improved by simply giving them enhanced mental and physical exercise – putting running wheels in their cages, plus interesting items to smell, see and touch. Not only did the mouse’s schizophrenia-like symptoms ease through this environmental enrichment, but a specific chemical transmitter pathway found to be abnormal in the cerebral cortex of the mice was selectively rescued. An anti-psychotic drug used by humans also improved the mouse’s condition, indicating that this mouse is a valid model for schizophrenia in humans. Dr Hannan said this discovery could pave the way for the development of better treatments for schizophrenia.
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