Australian scientists believe mental and physical exercises can improve behaviors associated with schizophrenia.
Laboratory mice genetically engineered to display schizophrenia-like behaviors demonstrated significant improvements by simply giving them enhanced mental and physical exercise – putting running wheels in their cages, plus interesting items to smell, see and touch.
Inidviduals with schizophremia typically display learning and memory problems, an inability to process complex information, and abnormal responses to particular sensory stimuli.
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 Anthony Hannan, along with Dr Caitlin McOmish, Emma Burrows and colleagues from The Howard Florey Institute conducted the research.
Dr Hannan said this discovery could pave the way for the development of better treatments for schizophrenia.
“Through our research, and that of others, we hope a new class of therapeutic drugs will be developed that mimic the effects of environmental enrichment in the brain to treat various brain disorders, possibly including schizophrenia,” Dr Hannan said.
“Pharmaceutical approaches may not be the sole answer for a given brain disease. People may still need optimal levels of physical and mental activity, as well as a healthy diet, plus the right drugs.
“We have already identified specific molecules that could be targets for what I call ‘enviromimetics’ and these may have relevance for other brain diseases.
“However, there are obviously major differences between mice and men, and large-scale clinical trials are needed to identify the most beneficial drugs,“ he said. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that is brought on through a complex and largely unknown interaction of genes and environment.
There is a nature-nurture aspect to schizophrenia because in human identical twins, if one twin develops schizophrenia, there is only a 50 percent chance the other twin, who has identical genes, will develop the illness.
Source: Research Australia