Studies for the why behind many human behaviors begin with a study involving mice. In this case, yet again a study with a mouse has led to some new developments in dopamine research and the impact of dopamine on mouse behaviors.
Mouse Behavior Leads Dopamine Studies in New Direction
A human genetic variation that affects the behavior of DAT, a protein that regulates the transmitter that removes excess dopamine, was recently injected into a mouse. That mouse began to exhibit darting behavior. Contrarily, however, the mouse does not exhibit hyperactive behavior.
Scientists believe this is because, while the transmitter sends excess dopamine back into the synapse thanks to the genetic variation, it still may pick up a certain amount of dopamine and that helps cut down on hyperactivity. This could mean a better understanding of causes for BiPolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in humans. This then could lead to more effective treatment for these individuals.
Scientists See Indication Innate Impulses More in Control Of Mice
For scientists, the fact that behavior like hyperactivity or the decrease in the behavior of standing on hind legs to explore the cage – which is common for mice – means that the mice are more controlled by their innate impulses rather than the search for clues to appropriate behavior.
In humans, this type of behavior will be further tested with another level of tests that highlight impulsive behaviors. Scientists plan to begin this level of testing and hope to determine whether the effectiveness of Adderall and Ritalin are due to their effects on excess dopamine in the systems of children with ADHD.
A scientist who has been on the forefront of these studies with mice that exhibit darting behavior has received a grant to further study this genetic variation. Dr. Randy Blakely of Vanderbilt University has received a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Health to advance this study. Blakely hopes his research will help many people who deal with ADHD on a regular basis and have limited or no benefits from drugs like Ritalin.