Although animals cannot be used to study complex human behaviour such as language, they do have similar basic functions. In fact, human disorders that have animal models are better understood than disorders that do not. ADHD is a heterogeneous disorder. The relatively simple nervous systems of rodent models have enabled identification of neurobiological changes that underlie certain aspects of ADHD behaviour. Several animal models of ADHD suggest that the dopaminergic system is functionally impaired. Some animal models have decreased extracellular dopamine concentrations and upregulated postsynaptic dopamine D1 receptors (DRD1) while others have increased extracellular dopamine concentrations. In the latter case, dopamine pathways are suggested to be hyperactive. However, stimulus-evoked release of dopamine is often decreased in these models, which is consistent with impaired dopamine transmission. It is possible that the behavioural characteristics of ADHD result from impaired dopamine modulation of neurotransmission in cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical circuits. There is considerable evidence to suggest that the noradrenergic system is poorly controlled by hypofunctional α2-autoreceptors in some models, giving rise to inappropriately increased release of norepinephrine. Aspects of ADHD behaviour may result from an imbalance between increased noradrenergic and decreased dopaminergic regulation of neural circuits that involve the prefrontal cortex. Animal models of ADHD also suggest that neural circuits may be altered in the brains of children with ADHD. It is therefore of particular importance to study animal models of the disorder and not normal animals. Evidence obtained from animal models suggests that psychostimulants may not be acting on the dopamine transporter to produce the expected increase in extracellular dopamine concentration in ADHD. There is evidence to suggest that psychostimulants may decrease motor activity by increasing serotonin levels. In addition to providing unique insights into the neurobiology of ADHD, animal models are also being used to test new drugs that can be used to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD. © 2005 Russell et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Russell, V. A., Sagvolden, T., & Johansen, E. B. (2005, July 15). Animal models of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Behavioral and Brain Functions. https://doi.org/10.1186/1744-9081-1-9