WASHINGTON: Mental and physical exercise can help improve behavioural deficits in schizophrenia and repair damaged chemical transmitter pathways in the brain, a new study by researchers in Australia has shown.
The study, carried it out on a mouse model, was conducted by researchers at Melbourne’s Howard Florey Institute in collaboration with a team from Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria.
As a part of their study researchers led by Dr Anthony Hannan, Dr Caitlin McOmish, and Emma Burrows 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 gave the mice enhanced mental and physical exercise â€“ putting running wheels in their cages, plus interesting items to smell, see and touch, and found that their condition improved significantly.
They also noted that not only did the rodentsâ€™ schizophrenia-like symptoms ease through physical and mental exercise, but that a specific chemical transmitter pathway found to be abnormal in the cerebral cortex of the mice was selectively rescued.
The researchers also tested an anti-psychotic drug used by humans on the mice and found that it improved their condition. This showed the team that this mouse model was a valid model for schizophrenia in humans.
Dr Hannan said this discovery could pave the way for the development of better treatments for schizophrenia.
â€œThrough 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,â€ Dr Hannan said.
â€œPharmaceutical 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 â€˜enviromimeticsâ€™ 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.
This research is currently an advanced online publication of the international journal Molecular Psychiatry.
Source:The Times Of India