Combined Genetic and Environmental Factors Influence Autism-Related Behaviors

June 03, 2024

Rodent Research Shows that Combined Cntnap2 Deficiency and Maternal Immune Activation Increase Perseveration and Impulsivity

A new research article has explored the combined effects of genetic and environmental factors on behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by using a rat model. The research team behind this study focused on rats lacking a functional copy of the ASD-linked gene Cntnap2 and who were also exposed to maternal immune activation (MIA) during pregnancy. The team aimed to understand how these factors influence ASD-related behaviors. The hypothesis was that Cntnap2 deficiency and poly I:C MIA would together exacerbate ASD-like symptoms. Using the 5-choice serial reaction time task (5CSRTT) to assess attention, a core deficit in ASD, the study found that Cntnap2-/- rats displayed increased perseverative responses, indicating repetitive behaviors. Rats exposed to MIA exhibited premature responses, a marker of impulsivity. Interestingly, the combined genetic and environmental challenges led to increased impulsive activity, but only in the presence of an auditory distractor. This result suggests that the interaction between genetic and environmental factors results in context-dependent worsening of symptoms. These findings highlight the importance of considering both genetic and environmental contributions to ASD and suggest that the severity of symptoms can be influenced by specific situational factors, pointing to the need for tailored interventions.

Original Study

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