Obsessed with grooming


of a spectrum of disorders characterized by obsessions (intrusive, unwanted thoughts) and compulsions (ritualized behaviours intended to overcome the anxiety and tension resulting from the obsessions). Other similar conditions include Tourette’s syndrome; sufferers with this disorder show several motor, and occasionally vocal, tics, often accompanied by obsessions and compulsions. Although the evidence is less convincing, another disorder that might fit into this spectrum is trichotillomania, the hallmark of which is compulsive pulling out of scalp hair. On page 894 of this issue, Welch et al. describe a genetically engineered mouse that shows some behavioural features similar to those of the obsessive compulsive spectrum of disorders in humans. Often beginning early in life and running a chronic and relapsing course, OCD causes significant distress and disability. The available treatments for this condition are only moderately effective. They include cognitive behavioural psychotherapies and antidepressant drugs that increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin at synapses (junctions between neurons). As is often the case in psychiatric disorders, the existing drugs for OCD stem from exploitation of serendipitous clinical observations. Neither the pathophysiology of the disorder nor the mechanism of action of these drugs is understood. Given the toll of OCD and other psychiatric disorders, safer and more effective medications are much needed; but four main obstacles remain. First, understanding the neurobiology of higher cognition, emotion and control of complex behaviour is still a daunting frontier. Second, those with psychiatric disorders lack obvious and visible signs of damage to the nervous tissue, the presence of which could point the way to identifying molecular culprits. Third, the genetic and non-genetic factors contributing to psychiatric disorders are highly complex. And fourth, good animal models have been lacking. The mice studied by Welch et al. showed excessive grooming, which resulted in hair loss and skin injuries, as well as anxiety-like traits. These mice lack the gene encoding SAPAP3 NEUROSCIENCE

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Hyman2007ObsessedWG, title={Obsessed with grooming}, author={Steven E Hyman}, year={2007} }