Using human brain imaging studies as a guide toward animal models of schizophrenia.

Neuroscience

PubMedID: 26037801

Bolkan SS, De Carvalho FD, Kellendonk C. Using human brain imaging studies as a guide toward animal models of schizophrenia. Neuroscience. 2016;.
Schizophrenia is a heterogeneous and poorly understood mental disorder that is presently defined solely by its behavioral symptoms. Advances in genetic, epidemiological and brain imaging techniques in the past half century, however, have significantly advanced our understanding of the underlying biology of the disorder. In spite of these advances clinical research remains limited in its power to establish the causal relationships that link etiology with pathophysiology and symptoms. In this context, animal models provide an important tool for causally testing hypotheses about biological processes postulated to be disrupted in the disorder. While animal models can exploit a variety of entry points toward the study of schizophrenia, here we describe an approach that seeks to closely approximate functional alterations observed with brain imaging techniques in patients. By modeling these intermediate pathophysiological alterations in animals, this approach offers an opportunity to (1) tightly link a single functional brain abnormality with its behavioral consequences, and (2) to determine whether a single pathophysiology can causally produce alterations in other brain areas that have been described in patients. In this review we first summarize a selection of well-replicated biological abnormalities described in the schizophrenia literature. We then provide examples of animal models that were studied in the context of patient imaging findings describing enhanced striatal dopamine D2 receptor function, alterations in thalamo-prefrontal circuit function, and metabolic hyperfunction of the hippocampus. Lastly, we discuss the implications of findings from these animal models for our present understanding of schizophrenia, and consider key unanswered questions for future research in animal models and human patients.