ADHD research has long employed animal models in the study of the neural basis of this multifactorial and heterogeneous pathology. The core clinical symptoms of ADHD - namely, inattentiveness, ► hyperactivity and ► impulsivity - have been used as constructs in animal research for a long time. Following early attempts to model these symptoms in animals such as dogs and cats, laboratory models of ADHD have been developed mostly in rodents, partly because more is known about their biology and genetics. Several authors have put forward some essential characteristics of a good animal model of ADHD. They can be summarized as follows: (1) behavioral symptoms should be evident only in particular environments and stage of development, according to the specific characteristics of ADHD symptom manifestation; (2) biochemical and morphological abnormalities - as well as their etiology - should be similar to those shown by ADHD sufferers; (3) the model should respond to the same drugs used for the treatment of ADHD with a measurable improvement of the main symptoms and be able to predict the efficacy of new treatments. Thus, in preclinical ADHD research, a particular emphasis should be put on the techniques used to assess the behavioral symptoms and on the peculiar response of the model to drugs used in ADHD pharmacotherapy on those behavioral measures.
Animal models of ADHD can be divided into genetic, chemical intoxication/physical trauma, behavioral, and brain lesion models. These models are of great value because their use can help in defining the causal relations between the symptoms and the applied experimental manipulation. Moreover, they allow us to test the efficacy of new pharmacological and behavioral interventions for the treatment of ADHD, and to understand the mechanisms underlying currently used therapies.
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