Posted by: Neurobites | November 12, 2011

Autism: Uncovering Animal Strain models

My neuroloves,

SFN has been nothing short of pheonom-fabulous (new word!) We have been just jumping around from one thing to another. There were so many people, so many posters and so many talks, but oh so little time! Everyone has been nerdliciously lovely and helpful:) Aside from our daily blog posts covering Section C at SFN we will be updating what I would like to call our “Daily Neurobites Diary” of the conference, which would detail talks, posters, cool people, cool food, cool places and more random cool (too much of the cool?) things;)

Now lets jump right into some neuroscience.

Autism, is a neuro-developemental disorder that has been a pet favorite of media and high profile celebrity campaigners (Jenny McCarthy anyone?) it has been portrayed in a form of young children that are socially “stunted” or “avoidant”. This complex umbrella disorder (the severity of it and types are on a large spectrum) is actually characterized by abnormalities in both social and cognitive functions. Physical characteristics of this disorder begin to exhibit themselves in the first three years of a child’s life, with males being 3 to 4 times more likely then females to develop this disorder. The cause of the disorder remains elusive, however research has been slowly, laboriously uncovering some key areas of the brain that may be implicated in the framework of the disorder in both human subjects and animal models. A significant amount of neuroscience research utilizes animal models, and autistic profiles are currently being mapped out in animals models, specifically in rodent.

We had the chance to chat with Andrew Fearless PhD. of University of Pennsylvania who was looking at mice strain differences. His poster was titled Sociability and brain development of BALB/cJ and C57BL/6J mice. As his title highlights he was looking at social behaviours exhibited by both genders at different time points of their development in different environments. In brief, he has found that both strains exhibit diverse sociability behaviours that are quite dependent on their age,and environment. He discussed different types of social behaviours, and their manifestations in either a novel or home cage environment.

So you might be asking, how do these findings relate or/and impact current research in autism? Well, those who work with mouse models will tell you that strain differences do impact the research, from paradigm choice to data analysis. In this case, the framework done here allows researchers to understand the “social” periods of each strain and manipulations can therefore be administered with that knowledge, allowing for more potent or relevant outcomes.

His poster has inspired me to blog about Autism once we get home:)
As always stay nerdfabulous, will talk to you in about 12 hours;)
Rim

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