Date of Award

August 2019

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Psychology

Advisor(s)

Catherine A. Cornwell

Keywords

ASD, Autism, Behavioral Neuroscience, BTBR, Developmental Biopsychology, Enrichment

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

This study examined the hypothesis that environmental enrichment (EE) would reduce autistic-like symptoms on three behavioral tasks in BTBR mice, an inbred strain used as a genetic model for autism. Based on our previous work with adversity induced symptoms of mental disorder in an outbred mouse strain, we predicted that EE would 1) increase preference for social stimuli in the 3-chamber apparatus, 2) enhance preference for home nest odors versus clean familiar shavings on the odor preference test, and 3) reduce anxiety-like behavior on the elevated plus maze. We found that EE 1) increased BTBR preference for a stranger mouse enclosure versus an empty enclosure, 2) did not influence BTBR scores on the odor preference test, and 3) did not influence anxiety scores for BTBR mice on the elevated plus maze. However, BTBR mice spent less time than CD-1 outbred controls on the open arm of the elevated plus maze, a finding that is

consistent with evidence that anxiety is frequently comorbid with autism in humans. These results imply that different neural mechanisms underlie different autistic symptoms, since environmental intervention does not influence all symptoms equally.

Access

Open Access

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