Genetically inbred Balb/c mice differ from outbred Swiss Webster mice on discrete measures of sociability: relevance to a genetic mouse model of autism spectrum disorders

Autism Res. 2011 Dec;4(6):393-400. doi: 10.1002/aur.218. Epub 2011 Aug 31.


The Balb/c mouse is proposed as a model of human disorders with prominent deficits of sociability, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) that may involve pathophysiological disruption of NMDA receptor-mediated neurotransmission. A standard procedure was used to measure sociability in 8-week-old male genetically inbred Balb/c and outbred Swiss Webster mice. Moreover, because impaired sociability may influence the social behavior of stimulus mice, we also measured the proportion of total episodes of social approach made by the stimulus mouse while test and stimulus mice were allowed to interact freely. Three raters with good inter-rater agreement evaluated operationally defined measures of sociability chosen because of their descriptive similarity to deficits of social behavior reported in persons with ASDs. The data support previous reports that the Balb/c mouse is a genetic mouse model of impaired sociability. The data also show that the behavior of the social stimulus mouse is influenced by the impaired sociability of the Balb/c strain. Interestingly, operationally defined measures of sociability did not necessarily correlate with each other within mouse strain and the profile of correlated measures differed between strains. Finally, "stereotypic" behaviors (i.e. rearing, grooming and wall climbing) recorded during the session of free interaction between the test and social stimulus mice were more intensely displayed by Swiss Webster than Balb/c mice, suggesting that the domains of sociability and "restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior" are independent of each other in the Balb/c strain.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asperger Syndrome*
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Observer Variation
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stereotyped Behavior