NYMC Faculty Publications

An Animal Model of Autism: Behavioural Studies in the GS Guinea-Pig

Journal Title

The European Journal of Neuroscience

First Page


Last Page


Document Type


Publication Date

August 1998


Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology


Autism is a human behavioural pathology marked by major difficulties in abnormal socialization, language comprehension and stereotypic motor patterns. These behavioural abnormalities have been associated with corticocerebral and cerebellar abnormalities in autistic patients, particularly in vermal folia VI and VII. Progress in understanding this disease has been hindered by the absence of a non-primate animal model. GS guinea-pigs are a partially inbred, non-ataxic guinea-pig strain with cerebellar and corticocerebral abnormalities similar to those reported to exist in human patients with autism. In order to determine if GS guinea-pigs represent an animal model of autism, their behaviour was compared with that of Hartley strain guinea-pigs. GS animals learned a motor task significantly more rapidly than Hartley guinea-pigs, but performed it in a more stereotypic manner and were less influenced by environmental stimuli than Hartleys. GS animals exhibited significantly less exploratory behaviour in a novel environment and were significantly less responsive to 50-95 dBA pure tones than Hartley guinea-pigs. In a social interaction assay, GS guinea-pigs interacted significantly less frequently with each other or with Hartley guinea-pigs than Hartleys did under the same conditions. GS behaviour thus exhibits autistic-like behaviour patterns: motor stereotypy, lack of exploration and response to environment and poor social interaction. Coupled with the neuropathological findings, this abnormal behaviour suggests that GS guinea-pigs could be a useful animal model of autism.

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