Olfaction supports a multitude of behaviors vital for social communication and interactions between conspecifics. Intact sensory processing is contingent upon proper circuit wiring. Disturbances in genetic factors controlling circuit assembly and synaptic wiring can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), where impaired social interactions and communication are core symptoms. The variability in behavioral phenotype expression is also contingent upon the role environmental factors play in defining genetic expression. Considering the prevailing clinical diagnosis of ASD, research on therapeutic targets for autism is essential. Behavioral impairments may be identified along a range of increasingly complex social tasks. Hence, the assessment of social behavior and communication is progressing towards more ethologically relevant tasks. Garnering a more accurate understanding of social processing deficits in the sensory domain may greatly contribute to the development of therapeutic targets. With that framework, studies have found a viable link between social behaviors, circuit wiring, and altered neuronal coding related to the processing of salient social stimuli. Here, the relationship between social odor processing in rodents and humans is examined in the context of health and ASD, with special consideration for how genetic expression and neuronal connectivity may regulate behavioral phenotypes.
About The Expert
Michael J Schmeisser