Research ArticlePSYCHOLOGY

Single-neuron and genetic correlates of autistic behavior in macaque

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Science Advances  21 Sep 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 9, e1600558
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600558


Atypical neurodevelopment in autism spectrum disorder is a mystery, defying explanation despite increasing attention. We report on a Japanese macaque that spontaneously exhibited autistic traits, namely, impaired social ability as well as restricted and repetitive behaviors, along with our single-neuron and genomic analyses. Its social ability was measured in a turn-taking task, where two monkeys monitor each other’s actions for adaptive behavioral planning. In its brain, the medial frontal neurons responding to others’ actions, abundant in the controls, were almost nonexistent. In its genes, whole-exome sequencing and copy number variation analyses identified rare coding variants linked to human neuropsychiatric disorders in 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) receptor 2C (HTR2C) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP)–binding cassette subfamily A13 (ABCA13). This combination of systems neuroscience and cognitive genomics in macaques suggests a new, phenotype-to-genotype approach to studying mental disorders.

  • Autism
  • behavioral neuroscience
  • neurons
  • developmental neuroscience
  • genomic analysis

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