July 30, 2004

Schizophrenia Gene Defect in Mice

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

There's a new face in schizophrenia research - assistant professor Jeffrey Eells at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine recently received $55,000 from NARSAD. He is studying a particular strain of mice that show a gene mutation similar to one seen in humans with schizophrenia.

Mice don't generally share their psychotic symptoms, so Eells is using other techniques to determine the mutant gene's effect. Specifically, he looks at an altered "prepulse inhibition" that is similar to what is observed in schizophrenia patients. "Prepulse Inhibition" is seen when a mild sensory event (the prepulse) is presented a short time interval before a strong, startle-inducing stimulus (such as a loud noise). In normal subjects, once these two events are reliably paired through conditioning, the prepulse will blunt the startle response to the stronger stimuli because the subject is expecting it. An altered prepulse inhibition is present in subjects that do not have reduced startle following the prepulse. In schizophrenia patients, this has been interpreted as indicating a deficit in the early sensory processing networks in the brain.

Eells is also looking at how the gene mutation affects the animals' dopamine system.

?Nobody really knows what causes schizophrenia -- it?s likely that there are a number of different causes that can result in the symptoms of schizophrenia,? Eells said. ?This gene mutation may be one of a number of causes or predisposing factors that could signal schizophrenia. The hope is that it will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms of the disorder and potentially to other avenues of treating schizophrenia.?

According to Associate Dean for Research Jerald Ainsworth, this may be the first time taht anyone at MSU has secured a grant from the NARSAD foundation.

For the full news article, see "Veterinary researcher studies schizophrenia" (July 29, 2004) in the Mississippi State University Office of Agricultural Communications (http://msucares.com/news/print/cvm/cvm04/040729.html).

For more research on altered prepulse inhibition in schizophrenia populations, see the following pubmed abstracts (or do a search on "prepulse inhibition" and schizophrenia at www.pubmed.org):

1. The influence of schizotypy traits on prepulse inhibition in young healthy controls (J Psychopharmacol 2004:18(2):181-88).

2. Preattentional and attentional cognitive deficits as targets for treating schizophrenia. (Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2004:174(1):75-85).

3. Genetic influences on prepulse inhibition of startle reflex in humans. (Neurosci Lett. 2003:15:353(1):45-48).


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