Of Mice and Men: Complications of Animal Models in Autism Research

Now that the end of the year is approaching, I have the opportunity to look backwards and examine the cumulus of work within our blog site. In all more than 100 blogs have been written, focusing on the science of autism. The same can be considered biased, written from my perspective, and taking advantage that I had the liberty to expand on original ideas and opinions in a way not otherwise possible in a peer reviewed journal. So now and for the end of the year I will take still another liberty, that is, re-blogging some of my favorite writings.

The first blog that I wrote remains very popular. It is a criticism to the indiscriminate use of animal models in autism. There is a veritable zoo of animals being used in research with little more than scant behavioral observations to validate their usefulness. In 2013 mice with allergies made the list of animal models of autism. Do you have a zebrafish at home? According to their circling behavior, they may be exhibiting autistic tendencies. And where would we be if we did not include the fruit fly among our animal models? The authors of the study called their model novel, others would call it useless. However, the first prize among new animal models for autism goes to the……………… (drums rolling on the background)…………………. tadpole!

Well, now sit back relax, read our first blog, and let me know your opinions.

Have a Blessed Holiday Season.

Manuel

Cortical Chauvinism

A couple of years ago while at an IMFAR meeting I happened to attend a lecture on animal models in autism. The lecturer, a distinguished neuroscientist, made a point that similarities in brain parcellation and circuitry across species justified studies of autism in animal models.  As I sat and watched the PowerPoint presentation it became quite clear to me that most of the analogies presented as facts were wrong.

Is the brain of a mouse similar to that of a human?  Besides the obvious difference in size, the brain of mice lacks complexity in terms of gyrification.  Some people even refer to the same as being “lissencephalic”, or relatively flat, especially when compared to the rich convolutional pattern of humans.  The difference is of great importance when considering the blueprint of connectivity within our white matter. Below are examples of human (left) and mouse (right) brains, though…

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3 responses to “Of Mice and Men: Complications of Animal Models in Autism Research

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