Ron Stoop Lab    

4. The role and effects of oxytocin in an animal model of autism (collab. India):

Studies on the development of autism have suggested that an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory circuits plays an important role in the development of autism. Recently, these findings were expanded to include a faulty excitatory to inhibitory switching GABAergic signaling during development in Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) and valproate acid animal models of autism. Oxytocin, a molecule important for social behavior, was found to play an important role in this development, and its absence during birth causes similar changes as in these established animal models of autism. This suggests a mechanism through which oxytocin can play an important protective role during birth and possibly beyond against the development of the autistic phenotype.  While the readouts of the effects of oxytocin at the circuit level have up to now mainly focused on its effects in the hippocampus, similar changes in the amygdala, a structure important for social and fear behavior, may play an important role in autistic phenotype. Moreover, oxytocin receptors are strongly expressed in the central nucleus of the amygdala, where their activation has been shown to lead to strong decreases in anxiety and fear responses. We here propose to study in a new fragile X rat model of autism the morphological and physiological changes at the cellular and circuit level in the amygdala and to test the precise involvement and effects of oxytocin in the development and later compensation of these changes.


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The National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, specialised is part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and one of the top research institutes in India in biological research