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Socially Awkward Mice Are Apt Models for Autism Research

Socially Awkward Mice Are Apt Models for Autism Research

DALLAS, Sept. 6 -- Clues into how autism spectrum disorders work may emerge from mice with a mutation that makes them socially awkward but enhances cognitive abilities.

Transgenic mice with a mutation in the gene encoding for neuroligin-3, a synaptic cellular adhesion molecule, showed both social impairment and enhanced spatial learning abilities, a mix typical of some patients with autism, Asperger's syndrome, or related conditions, reported Thomas C. Sdhof, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern here, and colleagues.

The behavioral changes the investigators observed in the mice were accompanied by increases of inhibitory synaptic transmission but not excitatory transmission, the authors reported online in Science Express, the rapid online version of Science.

"Our data strongly support the notion that a change in the inhibitory-excitatory balance contributes to the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorders," they wrote.

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