"Traditional research has studied autism as a genetic disorder and a disorder of the brain, but our work shows that gut bacteria may contribute to ASD-like symptoms in ways that were previously unappreciated," says Sarkis Mazmanian.
A study suggests that changes in an overactive immune system can contribute to autism-like behaviors in mice, and that in some cases, this activation can be related to what a developing fetus experiences in the womb.
Although many mental illnesses are uniquely human, animals sometimes exhibit abnormal behaviors similar to those seen in humans with psychological disorders. Such behaviors are called endophenotypes. Now, Caltech researchers have found that mice lacking a gene that encodes a particular protein found in the synapses of the brain display a number of endophenotypes associated with schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders.