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The dog (Canis familiaris) as a translational model of autism: It is high time we move from promise to reality

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Selecting appropriate animal models for a particular human phenomenon is a difficult but important challenge. The difficulty lies in finding animal behaviors that are not only sufficiently relevant and analog to the complex human symptoms (face validity) but also have similar underlying biological and etiological mechanisms (translational or construct validity), and have “human‐like” responses to treatment (predictive validity). Over the past several years, the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) has become increasingly proposed as a model for comparative and translational neuroscience. In parallel to the recent advances in canine behavior research, dogs have also been proposed as a model of many human neuropsychiatric conditions, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In this opinion paper we will shortly discuss the challenging nature of autism research then summarize the different neurocognitive frameworks for ASD making the case for a canine model of autism. The translational value of a dog model stems from the recognition that (a) there is a large inter‐individual variability in the manifestation of dogs' social cognitive abilities including both high and low phenotypic extremes; (b) the phenotypic similarity between the dog and human symptoms are much higher than between the rodent and human symptoms; (c) the symptoms are functionally analogous to the human condition; and (d) more likely to have similar etiology. This article is categorized under: Psychology > Comparative Psychology Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition
Schematic description of the complex etiology of autism spectrum disorder
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Psychology > Comparative Psychology
Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition

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