This subproject is one of many research subprojects utilizing the resources provided by a Center grant funded by NIH/NCRR. Primary support for the subproject and the subproject's principal investigator may have been provided by other sources, including other NIH sources. The Total Cost listed for the subproject likely represents the estimated amount of Center infrastructure utilized by the subproject, not direct funding provided by the NCRR grant to the subproject or subproject staff. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social behavior and communication and the presence of repetitive or stereotyped behaviors. The etiology(ies) of autism are currently unknown. However, evidence suggests that maternal autoantibodies directed against fetal brain tissue are a putative cause for a subset of autism cases. In support of this, we have recently identified a characteristic pattern of autoantibody production to human fetal brain tissue (and to rhesus monkey brain tissue) in 20% of mothers of multiple children with autism. Our preliminary studies indicate that rhesus monkeys, prenatally exposed to IgG class antibodies from these mothers, produce more whole body motor stereotypies (a defining symptom of autism) compared to control monkeys. These preliminary findings, while striking, are based on a small number of treated subjects, a restricted window of exposure to the purified IgG and a relatively limited period of behavioral observations. It is possible that extending the duration of IgG exposure may result in other behavioral abnormalities more indicative of the complete autistic syndrome. We propose to replicate and extend our research on this promising immunological model of autism by increasing the number of experimental subjects and increasing the duration of IgG exposure into the second trimester for a subset of the experimental subjects. We will enhance and extend the behavioral observations of the treated animals and carry out a structural neuroimaging study. We propose first to conduct an extensive behavioral assessment of the subjects during the first two years of development. We will quantitatively analyze the emergence of species typical behaviors in a variety of social contexts and in experiments designed to probe attachments, social dominance, social motivations, and fear reactions. These studies will also evaluate the quality of transactional interactions and detect abnormal behaviors such as stereotypies. We will also carry out a detailed longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study to evaluate differences in the time course of brain development. We will focus the MRI analyses on brain regions most commonly implicated in the neuropathology of autism, including the frontal lobes, amygdala and cerebellum and on structures associated with stereotypies such as the basal ganglia. This work represents a promising animal model of autism and may have direct implications for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of this disorder.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)
Primate Research Center Grants (P51)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRR1-CM-5 (01))
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University of California Davis
Veterinary Sciences
Schools of Veterinary Medicine
United States
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