Mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide. We are only just beginning to reveal and comprehend the complex interaction that exists between the genetic makeup of an organism and the potential modifying effect of the environment in which it lives, and how this translates into mediating susceptibility to neurological and psychiatric conditions. The capacity to address this issue experimentally has been facilitated by the availability of rodent models which allow the precise manipulation of genetic and environmental factors. In this review, we discuss the valuable nature of animal models in furthering our understanding of the relationship between genetic and environmental factors in affective illnesses, such as anxiety and depressive disorders. We first highlight the behavioral impairments exhibited by genetically targeted animal models of affective disorders, and then provide a discussion of the underlying neurobiology, focusing on animal models that involve exposure to stress. This is followed by a review of recent studies that report of beneficial effects of environmental manipulations such as environmental enrichment and enhanced physical activity and discuss the likely mechanisms that mediate those benefits.
- Environmental enrichment
- Transgenic animal models