A valuable approach to understanding the role of genes that have been implicated autism spectrum disorders is to introduce them into mice. The resulting mouse models may then be studied to determine how these genes affect brain function and behavior. However, the standard rodent behavioral tests, and thus the utility of rodent models for understanding the neurobehavioral impact of genes, are currently limited in terms of their sensitivity, accuracy and efficiency. To address this problem, Laurence Tecott and his colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, have developed a powerful ‘behavioral informatics’ technology, which provides a detailed assessment of the wide array of behaviors exhibited by mice. Sophisticated bioinformatics approaches are then applied to the rich behavioral datasets to reveal the impact of genetic factors on complex behaviors in mice, such as circadian rhythms, sleep, feeding, physical activity, learning and memory, novelty exploration and social stimuli. Tecott’s team anticipates that their technology could speed the discovery of how autism-associated genetic factors affect brain functions relevant to behavior. The researchers plan to use the new tool for automated monitoring of multiple behaviors in several lines of mice bearing genes related to autism and autism-like behaviors. Specifically, they plan to test BTBR mice, a strain known to exhibit perturbed social behavior, SHANK3 mice that carry a gene that has been associated with human susceptibility to autism, and mice bearing mutations at chromosomal locus 16p11.2, which has also been associated with susceptibility to autism spectrum disorders in humans. If successful, the detailed behavioral assessments obtained in this project will provide insights into the manner in which genes associated with autism alter brain function and behavior.