Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has a strong genetic component. But the role that gene mutations play in its main symptoms-reduced social interaction and repetitive behaviours-is still not fully understood. Scientists think that oxytocin, a brain hormone, may be linked to these gene mutations. If so, it could be used to help treat social impairments in children with autism.
Dr. Katrina Choe, Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology of Social Behaviour, is trying to better understand these links. She and her research team are using a mix of both well-established and cutting-edge research methods to examine mice that have been genetically engineered to disrupt an ASD gene known as Cntnap2. Ultimately, their findings will advance our understanding of the neural basis of ASD and may lead to treatments that could improve the lives of those who suffer from it.