Latest Issue of Science News


Groomed for Trouble: Mice yield obsessive-compulsive insights

Neuroscientist Guoping Feng and his colleagues had a simple plan. They would breed mice lacking a particular gene in order to probe the brain effects of the protein produced by that gene. To the scientists' surprise, they found that these gene-deprived animals provide a rudimentary rodent model of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a poorly understood psychiatric ailment that affects nearly 1 in 50 people.

The team, primarily from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., reports that mice missing this gene appear to be fine for their first 4 to 6 months. Then they begin to groom themselves excessively, which results in hair loss and skin injuries. They also display heightened anxiety. Compared with genetically intact mice, the gene-deprived animals are slower to enter and quicker to exit risky settings, such as open spaces.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.