Chinese study shows that mice whiskers may provide insights to autism therapy

In a study that could help with the treatment of autism in humans, Chinese researchers discovered that mice who had their whiskers cut at a young age were more likely to develop social disorders later in life.

According to a professor of neuroscience at Zhejiang University, “Whiskers are one of the most important sensory systems for mice, they help them explore their surroundings.” Our brain develops by the interaction of neurons and the changing environment. The input of sensory signals is critical for the establishment of the precise neural circuits in our brain.So we wanted to know if the mice would have behavioural disorders in adulthood if their whiskers were trimmed in early life.”

Wang and his university team clipped the whiskers of the experimental mouse group when they were 12 to 16 days old to investigate the influence of early life sensory experiences on the adult brain and behaviour. When the rats were two months old and their whiskers had grown back, the crew returned to monitor their social behaviour.

The researchers employed a three-chamber sociability test, which is commonly used to study social impairments and social recognition in mice, with one room unoccupied and one chamber holding a mouse. The study discovered that the whisker-trimmed group and a control group of mice both exhibited an equivalent interest in the room housing a mouse.

However, the control group spent substantially more time interacting with the new mouse than the previously shaven group, which showed no preference between a familiar and a new mouse.

The results showed that mice that had their whiskers cut between days 12 and 16 of their lives had poorer social interaction at maturity, according to the scientists.

According to Wang, the study, which was published last month in the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Psychiatry, may give insight into the therapy of autism.

Further tests with varied time frames demonstrated that adult social behaviour was only affected if the cutting was done within 16 days of birth.

(With inputs from agencies)

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