The changing roles and targets for animal models of schizophrenia

Biol Psychiatry. 2001 Dec 1;50(11):845-55. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(01)01286-0.


Unlike disorders of other fields of medicine (eg., diabetes, heart disease), schizophrenia has been only marginally impacted by the study of animal models. This gap reflects the incomplete understanding of the causes and mechanisms of schizophrenia and the resulting lack of defined targets for model development. However, prior attempts at modeling in animals the complex symptoms of schizophrenia have given way to more promising component models. This review will address the evolving field of animal models of schizophrenia with a focus on models of errors in neurotransmission, and of psychophysiological deficits, with a concluding discussion of the present and future promise of genetic-based models. Evolving models based on the long-held conceptualization of schizophrenia as being based on errors in neurotransmission are discussed as regards the integration of newer findings implicating alterations in dopamine, glutamate and neurotensin function in the pathophysiology and pharmacotherapy of schizophrenia. The case for the more recent conceptualization of schizophrenia as a core deficit in information processing and stimulus filtering is discussed. Animal behavioral paradigms that model psychophysiologic constructs of stimulus processing deficits related to schizophrenia include prepulse inhibition (PPI), a model of sensorimotor gating, or latent inhibition (LI), a model of salience learning. These models represent both better supported associations with schizophrenia and more productive targets and are providing important new information regarding the psychopharmacology of schizophrenia. Genetic models of schizophrenia are based on the demonstrated heritability of the disorder and more recent pharmacogenetic findings for antipsychotic medications. Genetic-based animal models use behavioral or molecular genetic techniques to manipulate behaviors related to schizophrenia by altering the frequencies of related genes. The future development of increasingly informative animal models of schizophrenia will be dependent on a more complete understanding of schizophrenia, an integration of findings across animal models and refinements in the criteria used to assess model "validity" that better reflect the changing nature and roles of animal models of schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurotensin / metabolism
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Neurotensin
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Dopamine