Olfactory cues are sufficient to elicit social approach behaviors but not social transmission of food preference in C57BL/6J mice

Bryce C. Ryan, Nancy B. Young, Sheryl S. Moy, Jacqueline Crawley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Scopus citations


Mouse models for the study of autistic-like behaviors are increasingly needed to test hypotheses about the causes of autism, and to evaluate potential treatments. Both the automated three-chambered social approach test and social transmission of food preference have been proposed as mouse behavioral assays with face validity to diagnostic symptoms of autism, including aberrant reciprocal social interactions and impaired communication. Both assays measure aspects of normal social behavior in the mouse. However, little is known regarding the salient cues present in each assay that elicit normal social approach and communication. To deconstruct the critical components, we focused on delivering discrete social and non-social olfactory and visual cues within the context of each assay. Results indicate that social olfactory cues were sufficient to elicit normal sociability in the three-chambered social approach test. On social transmission of food preference, isolated social olfactory cues were sufficient to induce social investigation, but not sufficient to induce food preference. These findings indicate that olfactory cues are important in mouse social interaction, but that additional sensory cues are necessary in certain situations. The present evidence that both the three-chambered social approach assay and the social transmission of food preference assay require socially relevant cues to elicit normal behavior supports the use of these two assays to investigate autism-related behavioral phenotypes in mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-242
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 21 2008
Externally publishedYes



  • Autism
  • Mouse
  • Social behavior
  • Social transmission of food preference
  • Three-chambered social approach task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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