An ode to rats as animal models for autism

This week, the lab of Dr. Jill Silverman at UC Davis published a study that showed the most similar types of social communication deficits in an animal model.  Her group, led by Elizabeth Berg, used a rat model, rather than a mouse, because rats exhibit both receptive and expressive communication.  Through a collaboration within the UC Davis MIND Institute and Mount Sinai School of Medicine, she tested an animal model of autism that shows a lack of expression of SHANK3.  SHANK3 mutations are seen in those with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome as well as in 1% of people with autism.  This new study opens up new ways to understand autism symptoms in an animal model, and moves autism research using animals forward significantly.   The references mentioned in the podcast are: