The Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory uses behavioral tests to evaluate mouse models of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is diagnosed on the basis of behavioral criteria listed in the DSM V in humans. The core features are impairments in social communication and repetitive behaviors and/or restricted interests. There are many associated issues that people with ASD also commonly have, such as intellectual disability, anxiety, irritability, and depression. Mice are phenotyped by using behaviors with face validity for the human symptoms of ASD. This allows us to conduct research on aspects of ASD, including potential causes, such as environmental stressors, as well as potential therapeutic agents.
Previous projects include examining the effects of environmental stressors during gestation. Maternal stressors, such as restraint stress or high-fat diet, were tested in two inbred strains of mice, C57BL/6J and BTBR. The effects of voluntary exercise during gestation in a mouse model of ASD were also examined. The female mice were exposed to these different conditions during gestation, and then the offspring were tested by using a battery of behavioral tests to examine social behavior, anxiety-like behavior, learning and memory, obsessive-compulsive-like behavior, and general motor ability.
Currently, experiments have started to examine potential pharmacological treatments for ASD. The mouse model of ASD is treated with the drug of interest and tested in the battery of behavioral tests with face validity for the core and associated symptoms of ASD.
The laboratory also collaborates with other labs at IBR and other institutions to provide mouse behavioral testing.