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P. A. KABITZKE;

The assessment of social behavior has become an important part of the research revolving around animal models of schizophrenia and autism. Some behavioral activities are mutually exclusive. For instance, animals can huddle and groom or rear and sniff. Active social behavior, on the other hand, seems to compete with other activities such as exploration, foraging, grooming, and resting. We explore the relationships between different behaviors in animal models of relevance to autism to try to understand how environmental factors can bias behavioral output toward one activity in detriment of another. For example, any manipulation that increases grooming, such as marking the fur of a mouse, results also in the decrease of social behavior. The amount and type of bedding modifies the tendency of animals to dig, also reducing opportunities for social behavior. Sensitivity to these factors is necessary to elicit potential deficits, or to understand that some “deficits” may be artifacts of the testing conditions. Implications for the assessment of novel therapeutics are that promising therapies may appear ineffective or, conversely, appear effective when they ameliorate a response to the testing environment not related to sociality.