Assessing behavioural and cognitive domains of autism spectrum disorders in rodents: current status and future perspectives

Abstract

The establishment of robust and replicable behavioural testing paradigms with translational value for psychiatric diseases is a major step forward in developing and testing etiology-directed treatment for these complex disorders. Based on the existing literature, we have generated an inventory of applied rodent behavioural testing paradigms relevant to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This inventory focused on previously used paradigms that assess behavioural domains that are affected in ASD, such as social interaction, social communication, repetitive behaviours and behavioural inflexibility, cognition as well as anxiety behaviour. A wide range of behavioural testing paradigms for rodents were identified. However, the level of face and construct validity is highly variable. The predictive validity of these paradigms is unknown, as etiology-directed treatments for ASD are currently not on the market. To optimise these studies, future efforts should address aspects of reproducibility and take into account data about the neurodevelopmental underpinnings and trajectory of ASD. In addition, with the increasing knowledge of processes underlying ASD, such as sensory information processes and synaptic plasticity, phenotyping efforts should include multi-level automated analysis of, for example, representative task-related behavioural and electrophysiological read-outs.

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Acknowledgements

The authors participate in the EU-AIMS project that receives support from the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking under grant agreement no. 115300, resources of which are composed of financial contribution from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013), from the EFPIA companies in kind contribution and from Autism Speaks.

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Kas, M.J., Glennon, J.C., Buitelaar, J. et al. Assessing behavioural and cognitive domains of autism spectrum disorders in rodents: current status and future perspectives. Psychopharmacology 231, 1125–1146 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-013-3268-5

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Keywords

  • Behaviour
  • Cognition
  • Animal model
  • Genetics
  • Phenotype