The project main hypothesis, based on reported clinical investigations, is that motor impairments in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may be predictive of this pathology and may even underlie some of its core cognitive and behavioral features. Focusing on brain areas involved in motor dysfunctions, such as the striatum and the cerebellum, may lead to earlier diagnosis and novel therapeutic strategies in this disorder.
Our main aim is to characterize motor activity and behavioral flexibility in several animal models of ASD. These are two major behavioral features of ASD and that yet have received less attention than cognitive features. We will then determine the neural networks involved, mainly within the striatal and cerebellar regions. Finally, we will thrive to reverse the observed alterations through enriched environment or through direct stimulation of cerebellar Purkinje cells (PC) through optogenetics.