Scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, have identified a brain chemical linked to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
In the study conducted using laboratory mice, researchers found that animals lacking the molecule, known as Slitrk5, exhibit behaviours similar to the human form of the condition including excessive self-grooming and increased anxiety.
However, these symptoms can be eased by fluoxetine, a drug commonly prescribed to treat OCD sufferers who demonstrate bizarre behaviour which can be upsetting both to them and their families, friends and colleagues.
Geneticist Professor Shahin Rafii and colleagues said in addition to identifying a new chemical involved in OCD, the mice may be useful as an animal model of the condition and in investigations for new therapies.
"Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common psychiatric disorder defined by the presence of obsessive thoughts and repetitive compulsive actions, and it often encompasses anxiety and depressive symptoms," telegraph.co.uk quoted Raffii as saying.
The researchers added: "This model can be used to further dissect the role of Slitrk5 in molecular pathways underlying the pathogenesis of obsessive-compulsive behaviours."