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Mol Psychiatry. 2011 Jan;16(1):7-16. doi: 10.1038/mp.2010.35. Epub 2010 Mar 30.

Big ideas for small brains: what can psychiatry learn from worms, flies, bees and fish?

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Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.


While the research community has accepted the value of rodent models as informative research platforms, there is less awareness of the utility of other small vertebrate and invertebrate animal models. Neuroscience is increasingly turning to smaller, non-rodent models to understand mechanisms related to neuropsychiatric disorders. Although they can never replace clinical research, there is much to be learnt from 'small brains'. In particular, these species can offer flexible genetic 'tool kits' that can be used to explore the expression and function of candidate genes in different brain regions. Very small animals also offer efficiencies with respect to high-throughput screening programs. This review provides a concise overview of the utility of models based on worm, fruit fly, honeybee and zebrafish. Although these species may have small brains, they offer the neuropsychiatric research community opportunities to explore some of the most important research questions in our field.

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