The effect of prenatal valproic acid exposure on the developing brain : face, construct, and predictive validity of an animal model of autism

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Raza, Sarah
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Neuroscience
Autism is a behaviorally defined neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by qualitative impairments in social interaction, communication, and aberrant repetitive behaviors. Behavioral phenotyping in laboratory animals to simulate core symptomology has been a large research focus with the aim to not only elucidate the behavioral basis and neural underpinnings of the disorder, but also study potential remedial treatments. The present thesis evaluated the validity of the valproic acid (VPA) rat model of autism by examining perturbations in the neurodevelopmental trajectories – behavioral and neurobiological – of juvenile and adult rats prenatally exposed to VPA, as well as the therapeutic effects of early tactile stimulation on the synergistic brain-behavior relationship. Behavioral and neuroanatomical findings confirmed the face, construct, and predictive validity of the VPA rat model, given the ethological, etiological, and therapeutic similarities to facets of human autism; thus, reinforcing the VPA model as a viable model for the study of autism in rats.
Valproic Acid , Autism , Brain Development , Behavior