Genetic and environmental factors increase autism spectrum disorder (ASD) incidence and this has led to the generation of corresponding animal models, with some showing strong construct and face validity.
In this line, we have recently published a series of several studies on ASD environmental and genetic animal models. We focused on motor and gait disorders which are currently not included in the diagnosis criteria, but which may provide new insights to ASD pathophysiology potentially leading to innovative therapies for a disease that currently has none.
In all these models, we reported behavioral, cellular and molecular alterations related to the cerebellum. Motor and gait deficits were observed to various degrees in animal models and when strongly present they were correlated to the severity of social deficits as well as to the number of cerebellar Purkinje cells. Additionally, we also reported that, like in humans, males are more severely affected than females in these ASD models. These findings, along with an increasing body of literature, open new hopes in the ASD field pointing to brain regions, such the cerebellum, that are at the crossroads between cognitive, social and motor deficits. Targeting these brain regions and their underlying pathways and synaptic connections may prove of significant benefits.