About this Research Topic
During the past two decades, the number of animal models of psychiatric disorders has grown exponentially. Although such models are not able to capture a human disorder in its entirety, they can be used to model causative factors (i.e., a mutation that increases substantially disease risk) and focus on core aspects of a disorder that may manifest in an equivalent manner in animals, in particular rodents.
In that context, integrated research strategies for the characterization of animal models, focusing primarily on specific behavioral deficits and underlying neural mechanisms have strong translational potential. It is mostly animal models with strong etiological validity, where behavioral and neurophysiological phenotypes and the features of the disease being modeled are in unambiguous homology that have been successful in shedding new light on critical disease mechanisms.
Although unprecedented progress into understanding brain function has been made, primarily by the use of new compelling tools and methodologies, new effective treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders are lacking. These contrasting realities have their roots in intrinsic features of translational research, and perhaps neuroscience itself, as it has been employed to date. Neuroscience, up to now, focuses mainly on single neurons or confined circuits and their manipulation (e.g., via optogenetic approaches) and only considers accompanying behavior of the organism under study as an add-on readout, failing to provide detailed analysis of the behavioral tasks involved. While this approach has provided some causal relationships between neuronal dynamics and specific behaviors, it fails to provide in depth understanding of cognitive processes and their underlying algorithms. Recent progress in neuroscience, along with large-scale initiatives that propose a consistent approach in characterizing these deficits across different laboratories, will further enhance the efficacy of these studies that will ultimately lead to identifying new biological targets for drug development. Such strategies should aim to maximize predictive power by ensuring etiological and construct validity of the animal models used, while simultaneously exploiting the advances in behavioral and systems neuroscience and by focusing, at least initially, on deficits in well-studied and evolutionarily conserved cognitive and behavioral domains.
In this Research Topic, we, therefore, welcome contributions that target, but are not limited to, the following themes:
1. Cross-species validation of the behavioral tasks employed to study core disease behavioral deficits:
Employment of such identical tests in humans and animal models, either application of human tests in animals or reverse-translational design of human tests based on animal models of neuropsychiatric disease
2. Employment of ethological concepts into animal behavioral experimentation and housing conditions and the advantages of virtual reality systems, as a way to meet those demands and bring an ethological relevance into a well-controlled experimental design
3. Combined studies of detailed behavioral analysis of translational value and underlying neurophysiological correlates (in vivo neurophysiology, large-scale imaging, neuronal population dynamics etc.) in the context of validated disease models or as validation of novel disease models
4. New methodological advances or tools that assist and improve current behavioral approaches to better translate animal models of psychiatry
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Keywords: Psychiatry, Translational, Behavioral Task, Rodent, Schizophrenia, Autism, PTSD, Anxiety, Circuits, Cognition, Social
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