Development of a mouse test for repetitive, restricted behaviors: Relevance to autism

Sheryl S. Moy, Jessica J. Nadler, Michele D. Poe, Randal J. Nonneman, Nancy B. Young, Beverly H. Koller, Jacqueline Crawley, Gary E. Duncan, James W. Bodfish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Repetitive behavior, a core symptom of autism, encompasses stereotyped responses, restricted interests, and resistance to change. These studies investigated whether different components of the repetitive behavior domain could be modeled in the exploratory hole-board task in mice. Four inbred mouse strains, C57BL/6J, BALB/cByJ, BTBR T+tf/J, and FVB/NJ, and mice with reduced expression of Grin1, leading to NMDA receptor hypofunction (NR1neo/neo mice), were tested for exploration and preference for olfactory stimuli in an activity chamber with a 16-hole floor-board. Reduced exploration and high preference for holes located in the corners of the chamber were observed in BALB/cByJ and BTBR T+tf/J mice. All inbred strains had initial high preference for a familiar olfactory stimulus (clean cage bedding). BTBR T+tf/J was the only strain that did not demonstrate a shift in hole preference towards an appetitive olfactory stimulus (cereal or a chocolate chip), following home cage exposure to the food. The NR1neo/neo mice showed lower hole selectivity and aberrant olfactory stimulus preference, in comparison to wildtype controls. The results indicate that NR1neo/neo mice have repetitive nose poke responses that are less modified by environmental contingencies than responses in wildtype mice. 25-30% of NMDA receptor hypomorphic mice also show self-injurious responses. Findings from the olfactory studies suggest that resistance to change and restricted interests might be modeled in mice by a failure to alter patterns of hole preference following familiarization with an appetitive stimulus, and by high preference persistently demonstrated for one particular olfactory stimulus. Further work is required to determine the characteristics of optimal mouse social stimuli in the olfactory hole-board test.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-194
Number of pages17
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 17 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism
  • Exploration
  • Olfaction
  • Restricted interests
  • Social preference
  • Stereotypy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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