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MIT Engineers World's First Schizophrenic Mice 159

Posted by kdawson
from the beautiful-little-minds dept.
Frosty Piss writes "MIT researchers have created a schizophrenic mouse that pinpoints a gene variation predisposing people to schizophrenia. Research with the mouse may lead to the first genetically targeted drugs for the disease, which affects 1 percent of the population worldwide. This is the first study that uses animals who demonstrate an array of symptoms observed in schizophrenic patients to identify specific genes that predispose people to the disease."
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MIT Engineers World's First Schizophrenic Mice

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  • Wrong. (Score:5, Funny)

    by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @07:57AM (#20055509)
    Pinky (or was it the Brain?) was the first schizophrenic mouse.
  • by blcamp (211756) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @07:58AM (#20055515) Homepage
    ...exactly how would a human *know* if a mouse is schizophrenic?

    • by sveard (1076275) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @08:03AM (#20055553) Homepage
      The mouse was seen using an axe hacking through a mouse sized door, shouting .. "Here's Pinky!"
    • by packetmon (977047) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @08:04AM (#20055559) Homepage

      By deleting a single gene in a small portion of the brains of mice, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center found that the animals were affected in a way resembling schizophrenia in humans.

      After the gene was removed, the animals, which had been trained to use external cues to look for chocolate treats buried in sand, couldn't learn a similar task, the researchers report in a paper appearing in today's issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

      Dr. Robert Greene, professor of psychiatry, and his colleagues have found that eliminating a gene in a mouse's brain creates memory problems that are reminiscent of schizophrenia. T he researchers deleted the gene, which codes for a part of a protein involved in passing signals between nerve cells needed for learning and memory. When a similar protein is blocked by drugs in humans, it leads to a psychotic state similar to schizophrenia.

      ORIGINAL [medicalnewstoday.com]
      Technically, MIT wasn't first:
      Schizophrenia - Mice With Defective Memory May Hold Clues
      Main Category: Schizophrenia News
      Article Date: 23 Jan 2006 - 21:00 PDT
      • The key symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations, delusions and disorganized speech. I really don't see how they modeled this in mice. I believe the MIT researchers are overstating their case.
        • by Plutonite (999141)

          The key symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations, delusions and disorganized speech. I really don't see how they modeled this in mice.
          When mice run into traps with no cheese in them, attempt to hump themselves, and put rings on their paws while whispering preciousssssss in a hideous voice, you know that something's obviously wrong.
      • Hmm... you know, that doesn't actually sound similar at all to me. What they said there, basically, is that they made the mice stupid. Maybe there's some other stuff at work, but not being able to learn any more looks the closest to genuine stupidity.

        That's not at all similar to schizophrenia in humans. A lot of schizophrenic humans are actually highly intelligent, and perfectly able to both lean and do (more than) simple associations. Their brain does work wrong, to different degrees and with a very broad
        • by Mc1brew (1135437)
          Sometimes I think I hear my cell phone ringing, but it isn't. AHHH!!!
        • Schizophrenics have many impairments beyond hearing voices - social withdrawal, low performance on most cognitive tests, bizarre reasoning. Drugs that work well to stop hallucinations ("positive symptoms") do not do anything about these "negative symptoms". Many schizophrenics do not have "positive symptoms" and those in fact have worse long-term prognosis.

          Most of us will not start throwing our feces at people by applying good logic to whatever real or imaginary input data.
          • As I was saying, I described only one kind of schizophrenia, and there are 5 major categories. In fact, the original term by, you know, the guy who coined the term, was the "schizophrenias". The 5 categories being:

            - paranoid type (the one I described already)

            - disorganized type (where thought disorders do occur)

            - catatonic type

            - undifferentiated type

            - residual type

            Some include two further subtypes:

            - post-schizophrenic depression (somewhat deceptively named, since schizophrenic symptoms are still more or les
    • by SomeDanGuy (1070108) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @08:05AM (#20055565) Homepage
      Not a bad question. This article title is actually misleading - this is NOT the first model of a 'schizophrenic mouse'; it is the first one to identify a specific gene involved.
      Animal models of these complex psychiatric diseases are always a bit questionable. This one seems to have bad memory formation, attention problems, and poor social skills. The researchers believe that's enough to call it a model of schizophrenia, but that's very difficult to say for sure.
      • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @08:42AM (#20055933) Homepage Journal

        Animal models of these complex psychiatric diseases are always a bit questionable. This one seems to have bad memory formation, attention problems, and poor social skills. The researchers believe that's enough to call it a model of schizophrenia, but that's very difficult to say for sure.


        Right. These are just 'schizotypical' symptomps. Many other disorders feature schizotypical behaviour, including several developmental disorders, such as multiple-complex developmental disorder [google.com] and other disorders like shizotypical personality disorder [psyonline.nl], which feature schizotypical behaviour but are not true schizophrenia. I suspect that these mice have more of the latter disorders (which are thought to be genetic) rather than actual schizophrenia (which may or may not be genetic).

        • These are just 'schizotypical' symptomps. Many other disorders feature schizotypical behaviour, including several developmental disorders, such as multiple-complex developmental disorder [google.com] and other disorders like shizotypical personality disorder [psyonline.nl], which feature schizotypical behaviour but are not true schizophrenia.

          But if results from these mice lead to a treatment for even one type of schizotypia in humans, that's still a leap forward for psychiatry nonetheless.

        • rather than actual schizophrenia (which may or may not be genetic).
          Actually twin studies indicate schizophrenia has a heritability factor of perhaps 80% (Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]).
      • by Walt Dismal (534799) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @09:03AM (#20056127)
        This one seems to have bad memory formation, attention problems, and poor social skills.

        Wait. Are we talking about a mouse, or a guy with an iPhone at Starbucks?

      • So, I'm curious, what's the difference between being schizophrenic (or otherwise having some recongized mental illness), and just "being a dick"?

        (I mean, *other* than that the latter posts on /. with the name "UbuntuDupe".)
        • So, I'm curious, what's the difference between being schizophrenic (or otherwise having some recongized mental illness), and just "being a dick"?

          The latter group haven't been diagnosed yet?

          But seriously, it's not just about changes in personality. One guy I knew heard voices. From what I've read and heard (radio, not voices), when schizophrenics hear voices telling them to do something, it's more powerful than anything real. I guess you could say that their brain hardware has been hacked.

          Sooo, I guess

          • Well, if they know that the mice are hearing voices, I'm more interested in the technology they used to access their consciousness and read their qualia, than in mental health treatment...
            • Well, if they know that the mice are hearing voices, I'm more interested in the technology they used to access their consciousness and read their qualia, than in mental health treatment...

              Perhaps they're hearing squeaks? And the researchers observe that the schizophrenic mice will suddenly stop, listen, and then rush off to build a model of the Devil's Tower out of cheese.

        • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

          by spun (1352)
          I had a roommate who was a paranoid schizophrenic model. No lie, one time she said, "Do I look pretty? Stop looking at me!" Another time the electricity went out in the middle of the night. She shrieked like a banshee and came running into me and my girlfriend's room. Normally when a hot model comes running into your room in the middle of the night wanting to sleep with you because she's scared, that's a cause for celebration. Not this time.

          So there's your rough rule of thumb. If a totally hot chick is just
        • Well, being schizophrenic isn't the same as being a sociopath, or even the more fuzzy "being a dick".

          A paranoid schizophrenic for example has (at least according to one theory), a pretty fuzzy line between fantasy and reality. At any rate, stuf originating purely in their imagination or beliefs gets mixed with the reality. They might hear voices, see stuff that isn't there, or feel or smell stuff that noone else can perceive. Where you might just imagine telling someone where to shove it, a schizophrenic mi
      • by milamber3 (173273)
        Actually, it is not the first to use a genetic model of schizophrenia in a mouse. There are multiple strains that come to mind as "previous art." The genes Neuregulin-1, Disbindin, COMT, and last but not least DISC (which stands for disrupted in schizophrenia) have all been used in transgenic mice as model of schizophrenia. My lab personally uses 2 of these and collaborates with groups that have the others. That's not to say that this new strain of mouse isn't useful. The general consensus regarding sch
    • I...exactly how would a human *know* if a mouse is schizophrenic?


      Agreed.

      For one thing, it may be just upset that someone messed with its DNA ;)
    • by mrjb (547783)
      ...exactly how would a human *know* if a mouse is schizophrenic? Simple. If it plays pool against itself, talks to invisible friends and hangs its cage full of clippings of newspapers and magazines and delivers an envelope full of them to a drop box once in a while, it's schizophrenic.
    • does the mouse have a secret stash of lots of old newspapers with scribbled details showing how secret messages are encoded in them? does the mouse have an invisible friend? does the mouse show a novel grasp of game theory and in fact has a nobel prize for the study of game theory? is the mouse married to jennifer connolly?
    • by Xemu (50595)
      ...exactly how would a human *know* if a mouse is schizophrenic?

      The mouse keeps talking to itself and is having paranoid thoughts about "people are out to get him". But the real give away is when the mouse believes it is a researcher in control of a giant computer called "Earth".
    • by Danathar (267989)
      There are different types of the disease. Catatonic for instance is where the individual does not move (or does not move much).

      The disease is not always your movie split personality.
    • by Domo-Sun (585730)
      exactly how would a human *know* if a mouse is schizophrenic?

      It's simple really. If it believes in Jesus, questions evolution, and has a conspiracy theorist right winged talk radio show.
    • space aliens and cover their heads with tin foil hats.
    • by mcostas (973159)
      That's the golden question. As you might imagine, modeling a complex human disease like this in a mouse is a terribly coarse approximation. We can't even diagnose schizophrenia in a human without talking to them. This is of course why we constantly read about scientists finding cures for everything from cancer to depression in mice, and then nothing ever comes of it to address human issues. Human cures are almost always exclusively found from human studies. Animal studies are performed because they are
    • It thought it was a cow.
    • by jd (1658)
      Easy. They compare the mice with the behavior of MBA students.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    im too lazy to go digging around the article, but diagnosing schizophrenia in a human being ... ok.

    actually they dont even know how to diagnose it exactly.

    "People diagnosed with schizophrenia usually experience a combination of positive (i.e. hallucinations, delusions, racing thoughts), negative (i.e. apathy, lack of emotion, poor or nonexistant social functioning), and cognitive (disorganized thoughts, difficulty concentrating and/or following instructions, difficulty completing tasks, memory problems). "

    h [schizophrenia.com]
    • by PPH (736903)

      now, how do you find out if a mouse has those problems?
      Look for little mouse-sized aluminum foil hats?
  • Oblig. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    My grandfather is a left-handed schizophrenic mouse, you insensitive clod!
  • I read it as "Some group of MIT Engineers are the world's first schizophrenic mice"

    The actual article is interesting, but not NEARLY as interesting as it could have been.

    (it is early still)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Great. Now I know why MIT engineers smell bad.

    (Either that, or the mice think they're engineers.)
  • I'm conflicted (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @08:19AM (#20055695)
    I'm all for animal testing and all. I'm no animal rights advocate by a long shot; but intentionally giving mice schizophrenia seems a bit wrong to me. Schizophrenia runs in my family and I want to see a cure as much as anyone else. Therein lies the conflict. I suppose the mouse gets it if the experiment can do some good.
    • Re:I'm conflicted (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @09:38AM (#20056541) Homepage

      Schizophrenia runs in my family

      That's a tough one. I think it would be worth trading a lot of mice for a cure.

      In the meantime it might be helpful to bring attention to the absolutely abysmal state of mental health care in this country. Something you won't know about unless you or a close relative has a serious mental illness. Half the people you see living on the street are there because they have mental illness and can't navigate the byzantine legal process to get disability benefits. Apparently the right wing thinks they're faking so they not work and drink all day. Even if they could stop trying to self-medicate with alcohol, most wouldn't be able to manage a checkbook even if they could get through the process and there's nowhere for them to go. Your options around here are the crisis line, which is useless, or primary care (the mental hospital). If they don't have health insurance they'll get a T&R (treat and release) and that's how they end up on park benches.

      Most states have closed their assisted living centers and state mental hospitals because of cutbacks in federal funding. Where to you think those people go? They usually get lumped in with people with AIDS and criminals. Great atmosphere for recovery. The druggies steal their meds and they're right back to having street lights sending them messages from the mother ship. It varies. Some states are better than others, but overall mental health care in the US, if you don't have health insurance, sucks ass. That doesn't get much attention, but let them leave "In God We Trust" off a dollar coin and people are all up about that. Hypocrites.

      • I agree 100%. The mental health care system (or lack thereof) treats people with mental illnesses as if it's their fault that they're ill. Kinda like the druggies and the AIDS patients.
      • by dbcad7 (771464)
        I think that most are not on "disability" benefits, but rather they are on social security benefits as strange as that may sound. I have personal experience in the "system" treating such people (I was not the one getting the treatment but a friend). It's a nightmare in itself. The trial and error cocktails of drugs that my friend goes through over and over really sucks. I don't think she will ever be better, but she is really taken care of pretty well as far as having basic needs.. housing, food, medicine
      • In the meantime it might be helpful to bring attention to the absolutely abysmal state of mental health care in this country. Something you won't know about unless you or a close relative has a serious mental illness. Half the people you see living on the street are there because they have mental illness and can't navigate the byzantine legal process to get disability benefits. Apparently the right wing thinks they're faking so they not work and drink all day...If they don't have health insurance they'll ge
      • by hawkfish (8978)

        That doesn't get much attention, but let them leave "In God We Trust" off a dollar coin and people are all up about that. Hypocrites.

        I love this one.

        A clueless family member forwarded me this meme and the funniest thing about it was that both mottos are on the coins - they are engraved around the edge (just like on some European coins.) There were a few accidentally struck without it, but they are valuable and not really in circulation. Plus there was this bit about the Founding Fathers(tm) coming up wit

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Well, I am an animal rights advocate, of the mild sort; I believe animals have rights, and we should respect those rights. OTOH, I also really like meat. And as far as this type of testing goes, IMO it's entirely a Good Thing.

      There are well-established standards for the treatment of laboratory animals. Any institution that runs an animal lab is supposed to meet rigorous standards for living space, quality of food, cleanliness, etc., and have a veterinarian on staff (or at least on call) to look after the
      • by Reziac (43301) *
        Researchers actively *avoid* inflicting needless pain and stress, because either will skew research results.

        Likewise with livestock producers, insofar as is practical, because every ounce of flesh stressed off your animals is money out of your pocket at the sale ring.

      • by rbarreira (836272)
        How the hell can you make sure the animal has no pain if it's schizophrenic??
    • I'm no animal rights advocate by a long shot; but intentionally giving mice schizophrenia seems a bit wrong to me.
      What makes complex psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia possible is the fact that the human mind is complex. We still don't really understand the mind, and we understand its various diseases even less. I'm not at all convinced mice have the biological and psychological requirements for schizophrenia.
    • Re:I'm conflicted (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ChrisA90278 (905188) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @11:52AM (#20058469)
      Have you ever watch a wild mouse in the field? Not an easy life. Almost all of them die young. If you watch, they live a life trying to balance fear and starvation. They will go out and forage but they are always looking all around and up. they know instinctivley that they are prey for cats, hawks, foxes and whatever. They have to come out if hiding to eat but if they do the chances are nearly 100% that one day they will be killed and eaten. Mice may actually like cages -- an enclosed space where food magically appears -- heaven _before_ you de, what a deal. Mice are fearful of open spaces and open sky overhead. they prefer to be inside a small enclosed space near a supply of food.

      Humans are built to cover much ground while using little energy. Bipedal locomotion (walking upright on two feet) means you can search a lot of area and don't use up much food/energy in the process. For a million yars our ancestors were hunters and gatherers that search large areas for food. Humans tend to have an instinctive need to move around and don't like confinement.

      We make the mistake of thinking all animals are like humans. Animals that are on the bottom of the food chain are not like us at all.

      • by E++99 (880734)

        Animals that are on the bottom of the food chain are not like us at all.

        Whereas animals at the top of the food chain -- like giant squid -- are virtually identical to us. ;-)
      • by LS (57954)
        Your comment makes a lot of sense until the end. The "food chain" is a myth. There is no top end and bottom end, with the humans at the top. It's more of a "food cycle". Humans DO have predators, but they are microscopic and invade in the millions, i.e. bacteria.

        LS
    • by hiryuu (125210)
      Schizophrenia runs in my family and I want to see a cure as much as anyone else.

      I find myself in a similar boat - my mother was, among other things, a diagnosed low-functioning paranoid schizophrene, and I've spent a good portion of my life concerned that I'm going to see similar problems manifest themselves in my mental and emotional health. (Thankfully, I don't seem to have any symptoms or behavior sets of the various schizotypical disorders, and I've been assured that at age 32, I'm pretty safe from see
  • Squeak, squeak squeak!




    [translation: "I'm crazy, and so am I!"]
  • pick your reality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jay Carlson (28733) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @08:38AM (#20055887)
    Schizophrenia is hell, and I don't think I'm stretching that much. This is a geek audience, right? Well, let's just consider a world where you can do a scientific experiment and find a result that only you can confirm. Over and over again.

    The standard narrative of schizophrenia that we've all internalized is that it's somehow a weakness of an individual. That can't be true, especially if it can be induced.
    • by Domo-Sun (585730)
      How is it less of a weakness if it can be induced? Induced or not, it's still a weakness.

      I'm sure they've induced mice to be fat, and being fat is a weakness.
      • by MarcoG42 (1087205)
        I don't think it's a weakness as much as it is a malfunction. That's like saying someone with MS can use will-power to get up and walk around in the latter stages of their disease. My grandmother is paranoid schizophrenic. One day she just snapped. She heard/saw things that weren't there. She thought everyone was plotting against her. An example: She went through an ENTIRE carton of cigarettes in one sitting; She would light one, take a drag, say it tasted funny and repeat for the entire carton. She
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      A weakness can be overcome. I don't think Schizophrenia fits that definition. I hope that this will lead to a good treatment or even a cure.
    • Who suggested that schizophrenia was some kind of mental weakness? Unlike, say, some of the milder affective disorders, where you might argue that it's a nonpathological variation in behavior, most people with schizophrenia are obviously malfunctioning. This runs the gamut from the ones with predominantly positive symptoms (hallucinations, delusions, aggressive tendencies) to the ones with a more negative/cognitive bias (no motivation, no feelings of pleasure or engagement with the real world).

      You don't jus
    • by greensoap (566467)
      Oh, I think it can still be considered a weakness; just not one that we should fault people for having. There are a lot of things that "can be induced" that we would probably consider a weakness, such as asthma and poor eyesight. Just because it is a medical condition that cannot be controlled does not mean that society cannot regard it as a weakness.
    • by Vellmont (569020)

      The standard narrative of schizophrenia that we've all internalized is that it's somehow a weakness of an individual.

      I've never heard this narrative, nor of anyone really advocating it until now. Who would really believe that hearing voices would be a "weakness" (i.e. something that could be changed if the person were "strong")? Maybe you're thinking of eating disorders, or gambling or something like that.

      A more common bias against someone with schizophrenia is they're scary, dangerous killers. I don't k
  • Please pay attention to article

    "MIT Engineers" "World's First Schizophrenic Mice"

    haah... rabid MIT engineers :-).

    Someone need to fix that headline more appropriately.
  • by fygment (444210) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @09:40AM (#20056571)
    To be a white mouse is to be nestled in an alien environment of metal and bars, forced under threat of punishment to perform acts that have no relation to natural instincts, fed an array of processed and unnatural (to a mouse) foods, all while being watched by alien creatures that frequently whisk away your mouse friends and colleagues who, if they are returned, are often physically and psychologically damaged. Frankly, that any white mouse is considered "sane" by the researchers is a very telling commentary about the mental state of those running the laboratory.

    • Frankly, that any white mouse is considered "sane" by the researchers is a very telling commentary about the mental state of those running the laboratory.
      Precisely.

      "In fact there was only one species on the planet more intelligent than dolphins, and they spent a lot of their time in behavioral research laboratories running round inside wheels and conducting frighteningly elegant and subtle experiments on man." --HHGG
    • On other words, the life of a lab mouse is very much like that of an IT worker. That's not sane either, but we keep doing it day after day ...
    • You may be interested in the following article, Caged Animals Can Go Stir Crazy [davidsuzuki.org].

  • I'd love to see a follow up article that discussed the practical extensions of this science that was done 4 years ago.

    Hopefully it hasn't just been sitting on a shelf for all this time to only just now become "breaking" news.
    • The article is a fluff piece with no real info, the findings from that study didn't yield anything as its redundant. And there is evidence in an article I read last year in GQ (of all places) that mice are the main targets of the infection that it thought to cause Schizophrenia.

      also here http://www.dvorak.org/blog/?p=12372 [dvorak.org]

      Also the Wikipedia entry point out that a realistic study say that the real infection rate is 0.55% of the population. [I guess we are not as crazy a planet as first mentioned]

      on t
  • That's crazy! Those MIT scientists must be insane! Totally off their rockers, they are!
  • I wonder what a mouse's delusions of grandeur are. All I could imagine is a mouse running around constantly, either in an invisible ball or after invisible cheese. And you have to watch out for those secret government mice that are wearing cloaking devices that only they can see through and who don't age.
  • Alright.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Tuesday July 31, 2007 @01:41PM (#20060151)
    ...who moved my cheese?
  • I updated my synaptics driver and it works like a charm afterwards.
  • What sort of disaster have these fools at MIT brought down upon the human race?

    After all, according to this [wikipedia.org], mice are the three-dimensional manifestation of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings.

    We're doomed! DOOMED!

My idea of roughing it turning the air conditioner too low.

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