Scientists in St. Louis have created a new way to study the processes of hallucinations, which may become a new word in the search for methods of treatment of various psychoses, including schizophrenia. In the outlined work, the experts proved that there is a direct link between the human mind and that of mice. And ways to influence and treat psychosis in humans can be studied with the help of animals.
It is known for certain that psychosis in humans occurs at a time when he ceases to adequately perceive reality. Moreover, even one episode of delirium or hallucinations can be a precursor of serious illness, such as schizophrenia. However, people without mental disorders can also experience hallucinations.
To study the mechanism of hallucinations, scientists invented a computer game that both humans and mice can play. Its essence is to hear a certain sound in the background of noise and signal that you can hear it. Humans press a button, and mice stick their noses into a certain port. Under normal conditions, both humans and mice showed stable results, experiencing hallucinations with the sound only occasionally, when the deliberately muffled noise was too strong. At the same time, both were confident that they actually heard the sound.
This unusual approach allowed scientists to learn more about the neural circuits that lead to hallucinations. After that, the scientists repeated the experiment by injecting the subjects with a hallucinogenic drug. And they found that before the occurrence of hallucinations with sound, the mice dramatically increased the level of dopamine. Thus, the scientists were able to prove that hallucinations and dopamine are linked by a reaction in the neurons of the brain.
Fortunately, there is also a kind of antidote for elevated dopamine – the antipsychotic haloperidol, which reduces dopamine levels in the body.
Based on the data obtained during the experiment, scientists suggested that in the brain there is a neural circuit, violation of which leads to a sharp increase in dopamine levels and hallucinations appear. The method of stopping them has been known for a long time – the administration of antipsychotics.