Autism spectrum disorders comprise a wide constellation of neurobehavioral conditions that arise from abnormal patterns of brain development. In order to understand how autism-related behaviors emerge from alterations to the normal development of the brain, it is necessary to examine how neurons differ in their patterns of connectivity among various brain regions.
Charles Lee and his colleagues at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are using a mouse model of autism to investigate alterations to neuronal circuits. Specifically, they plan to examine the wiring changes to two brain structures involved in sensorimotor processing — the cerebral cortex and the thalamus. These alterations could underlie certain autism-like behaviors.
Lee’s team plans to use several new anatomical and physiological methods for identifying alterations to forebrain circuitry in these mice. Future experiments could include attempts to restore normal behaviors in this model system. These experiments may advance autism research by identifying previously unknown alterations to forebrain circuitry that may account for core behaviors in autism.