Experiments show importance of social environment, not just genes
The company mice keep can change their behavior. In some ways, genetically normal littermates behave like mice that carry an autism-related mutation, despite not having the mutation themselves, scientists report.
The results, published July 31 in eNeuro, suggest that the social environment influences behavior in complex and important ways, says neuroscientist Alice Luo Clayton of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative in New York City. The finding comes from looking past the mutated mice to their nonmutated littermates, which are usually not a subject of scrutiny. “People almost never look at it from that direction,” says Clayton, who wasn’t involved in the study.
Researchers initially planned to investigate the social behavior of mice that carried a mutation found in some people with autism. Studying nonmutated mice wasn’t part of the plan. “We