Objective: This review aims to summarize the importance of animal models for research on psychiatric illnesses, particularly schizophrenia.
Method and Results: Several aspects of animal models are addressed, including animal experimentation ethics and theoretical considerations of different aspects of validity of animal models. A more specific discussion is included on two of the most widely used behavioural models, psychotropic drug-induced locomotor hyperactivity and prepulse inhibition, followed by comments on the difficulty of modelling negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Furthermore, we emphasize the impact of new developments in molecular biology and the generation of genetically modified mice, which have generated the concept of behavioural phenotyping.
Conclusions: Complex psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia, cannot be exactly reproduced in species such as rats and mice. Nevertheless, by providing new information on the role of neurotransmitter systems and genes in behavioural function, animal ‘models’ can be an important tool in unravelling mechanisms involved in the symptoms and development of such illnesses, alongside approaches such as post-mortem studies, cognitive and psychophysiological studies, imaging and epidemiology.