Schizophrenia improved by mental and physical exercise

August 2, 2007

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.

“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% chance the other twin, who has identical genes, will develop the illness.

Dr Anthony Hannan's ground-breaking environmental enrichment studies have previously shown that a combination of mental and physical exercise could delay the onset and progression of Huntington’s disease. As well as movement problems (e.g. chorea) and cognitive deficits (culminating in dementia) this disease has psychiatric symptoms, which can include depression and psychosis.

Source: Research Australia

Explore further: How do adult brain circuits regulate new neuron production?

Related Stories

How do adult brain circuits regulate new neuron production?

November 2, 2017
Before we are born, the developing brain creates an incredible number of neurons, which migrate to specific parts of the brain to ready us for life. Contrary to popular belief, genesis of new neurons does not stop at birth ...

Exercise maintains brain size, new research finds

November 13, 2017
Aerobic exercise can improve memory function and maintain brain health as we age, a new Australian-led study has found.

Scientists identify mechanism that helps us inhibit unwanted thoughts

November 3, 2017
Scientists have identified a key chemical within the 'memory' region of the brain that allows us to suppress unwanted thoughts, helping explain why people who suffer from disorders such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder ...

Research exploring common biology of cancer, infection and psychiatric disease

November 16, 2017
Nevan Krogan, PhD, is a mapmaker, but the object of his exploration is not any newfound continent or alien world. Instead, he and his colleagues map cells. Rather than cities, towns and interstates, these maps show proteins, ...

Schizophrenia and memory deficits: Solving the mystery behind a most stubborn symptom

September 4, 2017
A team of Columbia scientists has found that disruptions to the brain's center for spatial navigation—its internal GPS—result in some of the severe memory deficits seen in schizophrenia. The new study in mouse models ...

Living near a forest keeps your amygdala healthier

October 13, 2017
A study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development has investigated the relationship between the availability of nature near city dwellers' homes and their brain health. Its findings are relevant for urban ...

Recommended for you

Study opens new avenue in quest to develop tuberculosis vaccine

November 24, 2017
A team of scientists led by the University of Southampton has taken an important step forward in research efforts that could one day lead to an effective vaccine against the world's deadliest infectious disease.

Four simple tests could help GPs spot pneumonia and reduce unnecessary antibiotics

November 23, 2017
Testing for fever, high pulse rate, crackly breath sounds, and low oxygen levels could be key to helping GPs distinguish pneumonia from less serious infections, according to a large study published in the European Respiratory ...

New approach to tracking how deadly 'superbugs' travel could slow their spread

November 22, 2017
Killer bacteria - ones that have out-evolved our best antibiotics—may not go away anytime soon. But a new approach to tracking their spread could eventually give us a fighting chance to keep their death toll down.

Research points to diagnostic test for top cause of liver transplant in kids

November 22, 2017
Biliary atresia is the most common cause of liver transplants for children in the United States. Now researchers report in Science Translational Medicine finding a strong biomarker candidate that could be used for earlier ...

Alcohol consumption and metabolic factors act together to increase the risk of severe liver disease

November 22, 2017
A new study provides insights into the interaction between alcohol consumption and metabolic factors in predicting severe liver disease in the general population. The findings, which are published in Hepatology, indicate ...

Metabolites altered in chronic kidney disease

November 22, 2017
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects 1 in 7 people in the United States, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). These individuals have a very high risk of cardiovascular ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.