The BTBR Mouse Model of Autism Spectrum Disorder Shows Impairments in Cognition and Social Memory

Student Classification


Faculty Mentor

Antoinette Maldonado- Devincci, Ph.D.


Department of Psychology

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2018




Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by social impairments, communication deficits, and increased repetitive behaviors (NIMH, 2018). It is also often associated with cognitive deficits (Matson and Shoemaker, 2009). Neuroimaging studies of ASD humans have identified abnormalities in the hippocampus (Schumann et al., 2004), a brain region involved in social behavior and cognition. Since ASD has been associated with cognitive impairments and social deficits, we hypothesized that BTBR mice, an idiopathic mouse model of ASD, have deficits in hippocampal-related behaviors. Consistent with the literature, BTBR mice were less sociable in the 3-chamber social test than controls (Mcfarlane et al., 2008). While control mice spent more time with novel than familiar mice, BTBR mice spent equal amounts of time with the novel and familiar mice. In the social recognition test, mice are exposed to a novel mouse in trial 1 and after a delay period re-exposed to the same, now familiar, mouse in trial 2. Control mice had normal social memory as measured by their decreased interaction times with the familiar mouse in trial 2, however the BTBR mice spent equal amounts of time interacting with the exposed mouse in both trials. We further confirmed another report (Seese et al., 2014) by showing that BTBR mice had cognitive impairments in the object location test such that they were not able to discriminate between a novel and familiar location of the object. Ongoing work is exploring whether physical exercise can improve ASD-related impairments in sociability, social memory, and cognition in BTBR mice.

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