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Autism Mouse

October 17, 2007

A new mouse model of autism may be the closest thing yet to replicating the condition in animals.


Mimicking autism in mice. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the movie "Rain Man," Dustin Hoffman played an autistic man with severe social impairments but astonishing math skills. Now, scientists have a Rain Man-like mouse that could benefit autism research. Thomas Südhof and his colleagues at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center bred mice with a genetic mutation that’s been linked to human autism. The mutant mice don’t interact normally with others.

THOMAS SÜDHOF (UT Southwestern Medical Center):
But they do not suffer from a general loss of brain function. Many mutations that one puts into mice basically make the mice less able to do something.

What’s more, the mutant mice are actually better than normal mice at solving mazes. Scientists hope that by studying these mice, they’ll eventually identify the brain pathways that function differently in autistic people. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.