Tuesday, 06 June 2023 10:51

Laboratory animal of the year 2023: The mouse in autism research Featured

The mouse in autism research is this year's laboratory animal of the year. In this english issue, the German Association for Animal Rights discusses the reasons why the rodent is not a suitable research "model" and presents animal-free methods.

Presumed native wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) that occurs in many habitats in nature, especially with open herbaceous and shrub layers.
Photo: iStock/CreativeNature_nl

Within the research community, there is controversy about what exactly autism is. For example, the term “autism” includes autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, atypical autism, and “other phenomena.” Since the forms overlap and different degrees of severity can occur, the generic term “autism spectrum disorders” is used. Many scientists consider autism to be a neurodevelopmental disorder because of observed subtle, early-onset differences and abnormalities in brain development. Different brain areas are linked differently in autistic people compared to those of non-autistic people. Depending on its severity, the spectrum of symptoms ranges from difficulties in social interaction, hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli or motor problems to impaired speech and mental retardation. It is understood that there is a profound developmental abnormality that underlies complex disorders of the central nervous system – especially in the area of perceptual processing. It begins in infancy. In addition to impaired social interaction, there may occur peculiarities in communication as well as stereotypical and repetitive behaviors or special interests.

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