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New Tests May Help Researchers Detect Genetic Basis For Autism

Science Update

Researchers have developed a set of behavioral tests in mice that mimic the core features of autism and may prove useful in detecting a genetic basis for the deficits in social interactions and rigid thinking seen in the disorder. Sheryl Moy and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, working with NIMH intramural investigator Jacqueline Crawley, evaluated mice from 10 inbred strains on a series of behavioral tasks that measured sociability, preference for new social partners, and resistance to change. Strains of mice that preferred to be alone rather than spend time with unfamiliar mice may provide genetic models for abnormal social interactions seen in autism, the study suggests. Similarly, strains that failed to reverse their established habits and find a reward when its location in a maze was changed may provide genetic models for the insistence on sameness and resistance to change seen in this neurodevelopmental disorder.

Publication: Special Issue on Animal Models of Autism in Behavioural Brain Research (10 January 2007)