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Cellular Disorder Might Influence Behavior

Mouse study hints at link between mitochondria, memory and socialization

FRIDAY, Dec. 7, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- In laboratory mice, respiration deficiencies in mitochondria (the source of energy in cells) are associated with changes in social behavior and spatial memory, Japanese researchers report.

The finding may help improve understanding about the link between mitochondrial malfunction and mental illness in humans, they said.

Previous research found that mitochondrial disorders may contribute to many kinds of health problems, including muscle weakness, stroke, diabetes, or heart disease. Major mitochondrial genetic defects have been identified in patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

For this study, the researchers used genetically-engineered mice with a defect that affected the last stage of mitochondrial energy processing called oxidative phosphorylation.

The researchers were surprised to find that the mice had more improved spatial memory -- they were better able to remember locations in a maze -- than normal mice. However, the genetically-altered mice scored poorly in tests of social behavior toward unfamiliar mice.

The findings were expected to be presented this week in Washington, D.C., at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology.

More information

The University of Texas Medical Branch has more about mitochondria.

SOURCE: American Society for Cell Biology, news release, Dec. 4, 2007
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