Autism Rat Models Consortium

Members of the Autism Rat Models Consortium (ARC) with SFARI science team members at the ARC Annual Meeting in September 2023

In 2021, SFARI launched the Autism Rat Models Consortium (ARC) RFA. Grants supported through this RFA use SFARI autism rat models to investigate the biology of autism risk genes, with a particular focus on complex behaviors and their underlying neural circuits. Although researchers have studied ASD risk genes in diverse experimental systems from fruit flies to mice, recent advances in gene editing technology have allowed for the manipulation of genes of interest in an increasing catalog of species. The SFARI rat models were generated at the Medical College of Wisconsin. These models and others are undergoing a behavioral phenotyping battery at the Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain (SIDB) at the University of Edinburgh.

Rats have natural advantages for studying neural circuits and ASD-relevant behaviors due to their larger size (especially relevant at early developmental stages), larger litter size, and richer social behavioral repertoire than mice, as well as an innate capacity for varied behavior and ease of training in complex behavioral paradigms. Investigators funded through this RFA are working collaboratively as a consortium to study a range of behaviors and their underlying circuits in rats, including sensory behavior, cognitive flexibility, and social behavior. The consortium holds regular meetings and shares data and protocols among members.

A list of projects included in the Autism Rat Models Consortium is provided below:

Sandeep Robert Datta, M.D., Ph.D. (Harvard Medical School)
Developing rat MoSeq to characterize autism models

Paul Dudchenko, Ph.D. (University of Stirling) and Adrien Peyrache, PhD (McGill University)
The cortical head direction system as a model for systems-level alterations in rat models of autism

Loren Frank, Ph.D.Kevin Bender, Ph.D. and David Kastner, Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
Understanding the cellular and circuit bases for behavioral impairments in the Scn2a knock-out rat

Shantanu Jadhav, Ph.D. (Brandeis University)
Neural coordination mechanisms underlying social interactions in rat models of autism

Ugne Klibaite, Ph.D. (Harvard University)
The emergence of social deficits in rat models of autism

Bence Ölveczky, Ph.D. (Harvard University) and Naoshige Uchida, Ph.D. (Harvard University)
Characterizing social impairments and the role of dopamine in autism rat models

Marino Pagan, Ph.D. (University of Edinburgh)
High-throughput dissection of the neural mechanisms underlying cognitive inflexibility in autism

Gina Turrigiano, Ph.D. (Brandeis University)
Critical period plasticity underlying complex learning in autism rat models

Davide Zoccolan, Ph.D. (Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati)
Visual, perceptual and neurophysiological alterations in an Scn2a knockout rat model of autism

Click here for a list of publications from the members of the Autism Rat Models Consortium.

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