Noldus unveils new tools for behavioral testing of rodent models of autism

14 April 2015

Annual EU-AIMS meeting, Paris, France

At the annual meeting of EU-AIMS in Paris, Noldus Information Technology presented a new suite of tools for behavioral testing of rodent models of autism. In EU-AIMS, academia, pharmaceutical industry, SMEs and patient organizations have joined forces to find new methods for the development of drugs for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a family of highly genetic, heterogeneous disorders characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication, and by unusual repetitive behaviors. An estimated 3 million patients in the EU, 1.5 million in the U.S., and tens of millions worldwide are affected by ASD. The EU-AIMS project aims to generate tools and methods that will enhance our understanding of ASD, and ultimately pave the way for the development of safe and effective treatments.

Noldus’ new suite for behavioral testing of rodent models of autism consists of three tightly integrated software tools: a video tracking system for automatic recording of movement and body orientation (EthoVision® XT), a system for automatic detection of ultrasonic vocalizations (UltraVox™ XT), and a software package for observational coding and multimodal analysis (The Observer® XT). Using a common time basis and seamless data integration, these tools allow researchers to analyze the temporal and spatial correlation between visible behavior, acoustical communication and brain activity acquired with EEG sensors, within a single software environment with an intuitive user interface. Researchers can now study how behavior and communication differ between wild type and knockout mouse lines, and how these processes are modified by drugs.

The system was developed by Noldus Information Technology in close collaboration with neuroscientists at the Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Center Utrecht, in the context of EU-AIMS. The system is used for the integrated analysis of behavior, (EEG) brain activity, and vocalizations during mouse social interaction. In a social recognition paradigm, the researchers in Utrecht investigate the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the capacity of mice to discriminate between novel and familiar conspecifics. The newly developed system allows them to quantify behavior, vocalizations and brain activity simultaneously and as a function of the animal’s focus with respect to location and interaction with the other mice.

EU-AIMS, short for “European Autism Interventions: A Multicentre Study for Developing New Medications”, is the largest collaborative research project on autism in the world, led by drug company F. Hoffmann-La Roche and King's College London. The project receives financial support from the European Commission’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).

Professor Declan Murphy, director of the Sackler Institute for Translational Neurodevelopment, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London and scientific director of EU-AIMS, commented: “We are pleased to see new tools becoming available for behavioral testing of animal models of ASD. This is what EU-AIMS is about: to advance our research methods in order to accelerate drug discovery and development.”

IMI’s project officer Dr. Elisabetta Vaudano, added: “EU-AIMS is an excellent example of precompetitive collaboration between industry and academia. IMI is happy that results of the project are reaching the market in the form of novel tools that can be used by scientists worldwide.”

Noldus Information Technology (founded in 1989, currently 130 employees) develops and delivers innovative software and hardware solutions for the measurement and analysis of behavior. Scientists in more than 85 countries use them to advance their research, product development, training, and education. Noldus has offices across Europe, North America, and China and is represented by a worldwide network of distributors.

Press contact:

Sandra Thoomes-Wildschut
Noldus Information Technology BV
Wageningen, The Netherlands

Image courtesy: Department of Translational Neuroscience, Brain Center Rudolf Magnus,  University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands.