Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by impairment of social communication, repetitive behavior and restrictive interest. The risk of ASD is strongly associated with the prenatal period; for instance, the administration of valproic acid (VPA) to pregnant mothers increases risk of ASD in the child. Patients with ASD often exhibit an alteration in the autonomic nervous system. In this study, we assessed the autonomic nervous activity at each prenatal developmental stage of model mice of ASD treated with VPA, to clarify the relationship between timing of exposure and ASD symptoms. The assessment of the autonomic nervous activity was performed based on the analysis of electrocardiography data collected from fetal and adult mice. Interestingly, VPA model mouse fetuses exhibited a significantly lower activity of the sympathetic nervous system. In contrast, sympathetic nervous activity at P0 was significantly higher. In adult VPA model mice, the parasympathetic activity of female VPA mice was suppressed. Moreover, female VPA mice showed reduced the parasympathetic activity after exposure to restraint stress. These results suggest that the autonomic nervous activity of VPA model mice was altered from the fetal stage, and that the assessment of autonomic nervous activities at an early developmental stage could be useful for the understanding of ASD.
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