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Scientist Study New Treatment Modality for Psychiatric Disorders Using Mice

The researchers at Purdue University, University of California-Davis and Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany said that new treatments //could be possible for autism and Parkinson’s disease by understanding how certain mice focused their attention despite being distracted using sweet and crunchy cereal.

‘Without a measure of cognitive deficit in mice that is relevant to such disorders in humans, research into new diagnostic methods, treatments and cures is severely hindered,’ said Joseph Garner, a Purdue assistant professor of animal sciences and the study's lead author. ‘The level of complexity at which we assess mouse behavior is often very rudimentary, and it just does not match up with subtleties of the cognitive deficits in human mental dysfunction or with the tools we use to study the mechanisms that underlie disorders in people.’ Garner and his colleagues designed a task to measure a process called set shifting in which a focus on one object must be abandoned in favor of another object or task. This test long has been used to monitor brain processes involved in human psychiatric disorders and also has been tailored to a few other animals.

However, researchers previously had not adapted it to the most-used of research mammals, the common laboratory mouse. ‘Set shifting underlies our ability to use categories in day-to-day life and our ability to do many things including execute complex plans,’ Garner said. Garner's team reports its findings in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, which is currently online. Set shifting as an important neuropsychological skill applies to more human mental disorders than any other measure, Garner said. Mechanisms in the brain that enable people to shift their focus from one task to another also seem to be present in most other mammals and probably also in birds. ‘Set shifting occurs when you've learned to pay attention to one thing and then need to concentrate on something different,’ he said. '"/>




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