Neurobehavioral Profiles of Six Genetically-based Rat Models of Schizophrenia- related Symptoms

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2023;21(9):1934-1952. doi: 10.2174/1570159X21666230221093644.


Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder with high heterogeneity in its symptoms clusters. The effectiveness of drug treatments for the disorder is far from satisfactory. It is widely accepted that research with valid animal models is essential if we aim at understanding its genetic/ neurobiological mechanisms and finding more effective treatments. The present article presents an overview of six genetically-based (selectively-bred) rat models/strains, which exhibit neurobehavioral schizophrenia-relevant features, i.e., the Apomorphine-susceptible (APO-SUS) rats, the Low-prepulse inhibition rats, the Brattleboro (BRAT) rats, the Spontaneously Hypertensive rats (SHR), the Wisket rats and the Roman High-Avoidance (RHA) rats. Strikingly, all the strains display impairments in prepulse inhibition of the startle response (PPI), which remarkably, in most cases are associated with novelty-induced hyperlocomotion, deficits of social behavior, impairment of latent inhibition and cognitive flexibility, or signs of impaired prefrontal cortex (PFC) function. However, only three of the strains share PPI deficits and dopaminergic (DAergic) psychostimulant-induced hyperlocomotion (together with prefrontal cortex dysfunction in two models, the APO-SUS and RHA), which points out that alterations of the mesolimbic DAergic circuit are a schizophrenia-linked trait that not all models reproduce, but it characterizes some strains that can be valid models of schizophrenia-relevant features and drug-addiction vulnerability (and thus, dual diagnosis). We conclude by putting the research based on these genetically-selected rat models in the context of the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework, suggesting that RDoC-oriented research programs using selectively-bred strains might help to accelerate progress in the various aspects of the schizophrenia-related research agenda.

Keywords: APO-SUS; RHA; Schizophrenia; Wisket; brattleboro rats; low PPI; mesolimbic dopamine circuit; prefrontal cortex; prepulse inhibition; selectively-bred rat models; shared phenotypes; spontaneously hypertensive rats; working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apomorphine / pharmacology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine
  • Prepulse Inhibition / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Brattleboro
  • Reflex, Startle / genetics
  • Schizophrenia* / genetics


  • Apomorphine
  • Dopamine