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Animal Models

  • Published9 Mar 2012
  • Reviewed9 Mar 2012
  • Author Emily K. Dilger, PhD
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN
A roundworm, also known as Caenorhabditis elegans
Roundworms are used to study communication between neurons.
Credit: (2005) The Evolution of Self-Fertile Hermaphroditism: The Fog Is Clearing. PLoS Biol 3: e30. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.003003.
A roundworm, also known as Caenorhabditis elegans
A sea hare, also known as aplysia
Even sea hares can learn, and Eric Kandel, MD, used them to conduct his Nobel Prize winning research on learning and memory.
Courtesy, with permission: Thomas Carew, University of California, Irvine.
A sea hare, also known as aplysia
Fruit flies battle each other for control over territory
To learn about depression, scientists have made an interesting choice — the fruit fly.
Courtesy, with permission: Kravitz laboratory, Harvard Medical School.
Fruit flies battle each other for control over territory
Zebrafish, also known as Danio rerio
What fish have transparent eggs, allowing scientists to watch as the embryo inside grows and develops? Zebrafish.
Courtesy, with permission: Robert Fisher, Standford Neurology and Jaimie Henderson, Stanford Neurosurgery.
Zebrafish, also known as Danio rerio
Zebra finch, also known as Taeniopygia guttata
How can birds help us learn about the development of language?
Credit: Adar E. et al. (2008) The Relationship between Nature of Social Change, Age, and Position of New Neurons and Their Survival in Adult Zebra Finch Brain. The Journal of Neuroscience 28:5706-07.
Zebra finch, also known as Taeniopygia guttata
Mice and rats, also known as Mus musculus and Rattus norvegicus
Mice and rats are the most commonly used vertebrates for research, and have advanced knowledge in almost every area of neuroscience research.
Credit: Garami A. et al. (2011) Thermoregulatory Phenotype of the Trpv1 Knockout Mouse: Thermoeffector Dysbalance with Hyperkinesis. Journal of Neuroscience 31:1561-1933.
Mice and rats, also known as Mus musculus and Rattus norvegicus
A Briard dog at the U.S. Capitol building

Intelligent animals help scientists better-understand hearing, vision, and other senses. Briard dogs are prone to a genetic form of blindness. Once treated with gene therapy, visually impaired Briards showed improved vision. Today, Lancelot (shown) continues to see well after a single gene therapy treatment.

Courtesy,with permission: Foundation for Fighting Blindness.
A Briard dog at the U.S. Capitol building
A monkey feeds itself with a brain-controlled prosthetic arm.

Research with non-human primates is not done often, but for some areas of neuroscience, it can be vital.

Motorlab, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
A monkey feeds itself with a brain-controlled prosthetic arm.
A woman helps her daughter ride a bike

Are humans ever used for research? Yes, they are!

Copyright Dynamic Graphics/Jupiterimages.
A woman helps her daughter ride a bike

Did you know even animals with simple nervous systems can help us learn about how our own nervous system works? The sea hare has helped scientists understand learning and memory, and fruit flies have led to breakthroughs in our knowledge of depression. Studying brain diseases in mice or monkeys helps us grasp the nature of a disease, as well as the impact of various interventions. Each animal used in the study of neuroscience has benefits and drawbacks.

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