Date of Award

August 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Catherine A. Cornwell


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

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


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.


Open Access



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.