A new study has suggested that serotonin plays a vital role in autism spectrum disorders.
In labs at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, scientists are studying strains of mice that inherently mimic the repetitive and socially impaired behaviors present in autism spectrum disorders.
Georgianna Gould, research assistant professor of physiology in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and colleagues have shown that a medication called buspirone improved the social behaviors of mice.
Some genetic variations result in diminished transmission of serotonin between neurons. Buspirone increased transmission by partially mimicking the effects of serotonin at cellular sites called receptors.
Social interaction behaviors of the mice were measured by placing them in a three-chamber social interaction test and positioning a 'stranger' mouse in one of the chambers.
Buspirone-treated mice spent more time in the chamber with the stranger mouse than untreated mice and more time sniffing the stranger.
"No animal model is completely characteristic of humans, and we're far from saying that buspirone is a treatment for behaviors of autistic people. But this does offer further proof that serotonin is involved in a significant proportion of autism cases," said Gould.
The new findings appeared in the Journal of Neurochemistry.