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Towards Environmental Construct Validity in Animal Models of CNS Disorders: Optimizing Translation of Preclinical Studies

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There is an enormous demand for new therapeutic interventions for a range of major disorders. The majority of clinical trials in recent years have been unsuccessful despite highly promising preclinical data. Therefore, an urgent issue confronting both the academic and commercial medical research sectors is how to optimize translation of preclinical studies. The vast majority of preclinical studies are currently performed using laboratory mice and rats. We will discuss the various opportunities for optimization of animal models of CNS disorders. One limitation of current approaches is that most studies are conducted on sedentary, unstimulated animals with unlimited access to food in the home cage, thus leading to metabolic and physiological compromise. Environmental enrichment, which enhances sensory stimulation, cognitive activity and physical exercise, has been demonstrated to induce dramatic effects on brain and behavior in both wild-type and genetically modified rodent models, relative to standard-housed littermate controls. Environmental enrichment also exerts beneficial effects outside the CNS, such as a reduction in excess body fat. We propose that therapeutic interventions which are found to show promise in standard-housed preclinical models should be subsequently tested under conditions of greater environmental enrichment to identify therapeutics which continue to show efficacy in housing contexts of superior ‘environmental construct validity’. Other possible approaches to optimize the quality, validity and reporting of preclinical studies in animal models are also discussed.
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Keywords: Environmental enrichment; environmental construct validity; mouse models; neurological diseases; preclinical animal models; psychiatric disorders; rat models

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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  • CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, genomics and biochemistry of contemporary molecular targets involved in neurological and central nervous system (CNS) disorders e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will contain a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of current topics on drug targets involved in neurological and CNS disorders. As the discovery, identification, characterization and validation of novel human drug targets for neurological and CNS drug discovery continues to grow; this journal will be essential reading for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug discovery and development.
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