Saturday, September 8, 2007

'Rain Man' mice provide model for autism

'Rain Man' mice provide model for autism Southwestern Medical Center
2007.09.07
"Mice containing a mutated human gene implicated in autism exhibit the poor social skills but increased intelligence akin to the title character’s traits in the movie “Rain Man,”... Some cases of autism are genetically linked and have been associated with mutations that affect molecules called neuroligins, which link nerve cells together... In the latest study, the researchers introduced a mutated human form of the neuroligin-3 molecule into mice. They then tested the animals’ social interactions by exposing them to an unknown mouse in a cage. The genetically engineered mice spent less time near the strange mouse than their normal littermates and preferred to spend time with inanimate objects... The engineered mice were significantly better than normal, though, at learning a water maze, in which they had to find and learn the location of an underwater platform. They were also better at relearning a new position of the platform after it was moved...“When you manipulate a brain, you usually don’t improve it,” Dr. S├╝dhof said. “The fact that we get an improvement is very good. It shows we’re changing something specific; we’re affecting how the brain processes information.”..."

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