Contribution of nonprimate animal models in understanding the etiology of schizophrenia

Contribution of nonprimate animal models in understanding the etiology of schizophrenia


J Psychiatry Neurosci 2011;36(4):E5-29

Noah L. Lazar, MSc, PhD (candidate); Richard W.J. Neufeld, PhD; Donald P. Cain, PhD

Lazar, Neufeld, Cain — Department of Psychology; Neufeld, Cain — Graduate Program in Neuroscience; Neufeld — Department of Psychiatry, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.


Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric disorder that is characterized by positive and negative symptoms and cognitive impairments. The etiology of the disorder is complex, and it is thought to follow a multifactorial threshold model of inheritance with genetic and neurodevelop mental contributions to risk. Human studies are particularly useful in capturing the richness of the phenotype, but they are often limited to the use of correlational approaches. By assessing behavioural abnormalities in both humans and rodents, nonprimate animal models of schizophrenia provide unique insight into the etiology and mechanisms of the disorder. This review discusses the phenomenology and etiology of schizophrenia and the contribution of current nonprimate animal models with an emphasis on how research with models of neuro transmitter dysregulation, environmental risk factors, neurodevelopmental disruption and genetic risk factors can complement the literature on schizophrenia in humans.

Submitted Mar. 25, 2010; Revised July 8, Sept. 19, Oct. 5, 2010; Accepted Oct. 8, 2010.

Acknowledgments: The authors thank Drs. K.P. Ossenkopp, S. MacDougall-Shackleton and E. Hayden for their advice and assistance during the preparation of this manuscript. This research was supported by grants from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (grant number A0669 to D.P.C; Canada Graduate Scholarship–doctoral student support to N.L.L.), and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant number CID 28195 to R.W.J.N.).

Competing interests: See above.

Contributors: Mr. Lazar and Dr. Neufeld designed the review. Mr. Lazar acquired the data, which Dr. Cain analyzed. Mr. Lazar wrote the article. All authors reviewed the article and approved publication.

DOI: 10.1503/jpn.100054

Correspondence to: Mr. N.L. Lazar, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, 1151 Richmond St., London ON N6A 5C2;