Abnormalities of gait and olfaction have been reported in persons with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), which could reflect involvement of the cerebellum and nodes related to olfaction (e.g., olfactory bulb and ventral temporal olfactory cortex) in neural circuits subserving social, cognitive, and motor domains of psychopathology in these disorders. We hypothesized that the Balb/c mouse model of ASD would express "abnormalities" of gait and olfaction, relative to the Swiss Webster comparator strain. Contrary to expectation, Balb/c and Swiss Webster mice did not differ in terms of quantitative measurements of gait and mouse rotarod behavior, and Balb/c mice displayed a shorter latency to approach an unscented cotton swab, suggesting that there was no disturbance of its locomotor behavior. However, Balb/c mice showed significant inhibition of locomotor activity in the presence of floral scents, including novel and familiar floral scents, and a socially salient odor (i.e., concentrated mouse urine); the inhibitory effect on the locomotor behavior of the Balb/c mouse was especially pronounced with the salient social odor. Unlike the Swiss Webster strain, mouse urine lacks social salience for the Balb/c mouse strain, a model of ASD, which does not appear to be an artifact of diminished olfactory sensitivity or impaired locomotion.
Keywords: Autism spectrum disorders; Balb/c; Cerebellum; Gait; Olfaction.
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