The BTBR T+tf/J inbred mouse strain displays a variety of persistent phenotypic alterations similar to those exhibited in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The unique genetic background of the BTBR strain is thought to underlie its lack of reciprocal social interactions, elevated repetitive self-directed grooming, and restricted exploratory behaviors. In order to clarify the existence, range, and mechanisms of abnormal repetitive behaviors within BTBR mice, we performed detailed analyses of the microstructure of self-grooming patterns and noted increased overall grooming, higher percentages of interruptions in grooming bouts and a concomitant decrease in the proportion of incorrect sequence transitions compared to C57BL/6J inbred mice. Analyses of active phase home-cage behavior also revealed an increase in stereotypic bar-biting behavior in the BTBR strain relative to B6 mice. Finally, in a novel object investigation task, the BTBR mice exhibited greater baseline preference for specific unfamiliar objects as well as more patterned sequences of sequential investigations of those items. These results suggest that the repetitive, stereotyped behavior patterns of BTBR mice are relatively pervasive and reflect both motor and cognitive mechanisms. Furthermore, other pre-clinical mouse models of ASDs may benefit from these more detailed analyses of stereotypic behavior.
© 2010 The Authors. Genes, Brain and Behavior © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society.