By a showing of hands: how many of you started this New Year with the resolution to get moving? Burn off those extra holiday calories, or finally really get in shape? Because, let’s be honest, it’s all about willpower right? “Just do it!”
Most of us are familiar with the typical behavioral characteristics associated with autism: social behavior deficits and repetitive behaviors. However, motor abnormalities are also a part of the autism behavioral spectrum. These have generally been linked to malfunction of the cerebral cortex, but recent studies have also implicated the cerebellum.
Autistic phenotype in mice
Shank2 is a gene that encodes a postsynaptic protein and has been linked to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In short, inactivation of this gene in mice creates “autistic mice” (Won et al. Nature 2012).
Learning paradigms have long been the hallmark in studies on neurological and psychiatric disorders, but they often present challenges and come with limitations. For example, many of these tasks require some combination of food restrictions, handling of the animals, and/or are quite labor-intensive. Sylics recently introduced a new paradigm, called CognitionWall, that you might have already seen on our website, and aims to get around some of these limitations.
For a few years now, optogenetics has been the answer to shortcomings of using pharmaceuticals or electrodes in brain research. The temporal and spatial precision of optogenetic methods rapidly produced many new insights into neural networks in the normal and diseased brain. But like any other methodology, optogenetics also has limitations. Although wireless options have been developed, optogenetics means neuronal control by light, and delivering this light to the selected brain cells is still an invasive method (unless you are using larval zebrafish). Additionally, the method can be difficult to scale up, including to more neurons, deeper brain tissues, or larger brains.
Half a year ago, I wrote about rats on the CatWalk XT system, and we added a great white paper written by Kristina Ängeby Möller to the collection. Today, I am very excited to tell you that Marcella Cline (University of Washington) and Dr. Donna Cross (University of Utah) are so kind to share their insights on working with mice on the CatWalk XT system in both a blog post and a white paper. Enjoy!
Serotonin (5-HT) is a busy neurotransmitter, influencing such varied neuronal processes as memory, mood, emotion, appetite, and even sexuality. A prime role for this neurotransmitter is social behavior, across a variety of species; humans, rodents, primates, and even flies all rely upon serotonin to display normal social behaviors. These social effects are partly mediated through the serotonin receptor 5-HT2CR. This role has been confirmed by pharmacologic treatment, but until recently this work had focused primarily on adult rodents. In this current article, Séjourné and colleagues from the Scripps Research Institute (Florida, USA) for the first time investigated the role of 5-HT2CR in the development of social behavior.
Wednesday, October 21st – I have been talking to so many interesting people around here. Not just researchers, but other vendors as well, such as our partner company Inscopix. It was great meeting some of the people from the company that made an important contribution to the research presented at our satellite symposium on Monday. I think there is a bright future ahead in combining live brain imaging with video tracking technology and I hope to be reporting about it more in the near future.
Mouse models have proven to be essential in discovering the neurological underpinnings of diseases and to the development of a deeper understanding of genotype-phenotype relations. Behavioral phenotyping of these mice is very important, evidenced by the variety of tests that have been described in literature. Unfortunately, many of these tests are susceptible to bias, for example, testing in a novel environment. Bias can also result from handling animals prior to the tests, which can induce artificial behaviors that confound results.
Aggressive behavior is typically adaptive for most species in the animal kingdom. Examples of this can be seen in maternal aggression to protect one’s young, and defense of a home territory; both of these contribute to the survival of an individual, and the species as a whole. But how is aggressive behavior mediated in the brain? Recent work indicates that the hippocampus in general, and the CA2 region in particular, is a crucial neural component in mediating social recognition and aggression. What CA2-specific mechanisms allow for such regulation?