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Behav Brain Res. 2012 Feb 1;227(1):64-72. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.10.032. Epub 2011 Oct 28.

Differences in BTBR T+ tf/J and C57BL/6J mice on probabilistic reversal learning and stereotyped behaviors.

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Department of Psychology, 1007 West Harrison Street, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) represent a class of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairments in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as restricted interests and repetitive behavior. This latter class of symptoms often includes features such as compulsive behaviors and resistance to change. The BTBR T+ tf/J mouse strain has been used as an animal model to investigate the social communication and restricted interest features in ASD. Less is known about whether this mouse strain models cognitive flexibility deficits also observed in ASD. The present experiment investigated performance of BTBR T+ tf/J and C57BL/6J on two different spatial reversal learning tests (100% accurate feedback and 80/20 probabilistic feedback), as well as marble burying and grooming behavior. BTBR T+ tf/J and C57BL/6J mice exhibited similar performance on acquisition and reversal learning with 100% accurate feedback. BTBR T+ tf/J mice were impaired in probabilistic reversal learning compared to that of C57BL/6J mice. BTBR T+ tf/J mice also displayed increased stereotyped repetitive behaviors compared to that of C57BL/6J mice as shown by increased marble burying and grooming behavior. The present findings indicate that BTBR T+ tf/J mice exhibit similar features related to "insistence on sameness" in ASD that include not only stereotyped repetitive behaviors, but also alterations in behavioral flexibility. Thus, BTBR T+ tf/J mice can serve as a model to understand the neural mechanisms underlying alterations in behavioral flexibility, as well as to test potential treatments in alleviating these symptoms.

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