The ATT is a system to study social behavior on the level of social interactions within dyads and hierarchical structures within social groups.
In addition, the ATT has been proven useful in mouse models of autism.
The ATT is a system to study social behavior on several different levels. Fundamentally, it is a paradigm that forces a social interaction between two mice. Due to the confined space of the tube itself, the mice cannot pass each other nor can they display aggressive behavior. The outcome of this interaction is dichotomous, as only one of the two mice can be the winner. The dichotomous outcome is one of the most powerful features of the ATT, as it leaves very little room for measurement errors or variability of the underlying behavior. The feature is especially powerful because social interactions can be studied between mice subjected to many different kinds of conditions, yet the ATT will always return a binary result. It thus allows users to study social interactions in a systematic, controlled way with a relatable outcome.
Social groups rely heavily on interactions between individual members of the group. As the ATT enables experiments with dyad interactions, it also allows larger groups to be studied by exposing all members of the group to social interactions, pair by pair. For example, round robin series of interactions can show that mice differ in the amount of times that they win, with some mice consistently winning and other consistently losing. This hierarchical behavior has previously been linked to measures of dominance and thus the ATT can be used to study social groups and their dominance structure. Because the ATT simply focuses on the dyad interactions, users can design their own protocols to study group behavior. Groups of any size can be subjected to group versus group, round robin or any other tournament schedule due to the flexible nature of the ATT.
Previous studies have shown the utility of the ATT in mouse models of autism. In general, the ATT can be useful for translational research in psychiatry, specifically for disorders with symptoms related to social behavior. Due to the flexibility of the ATT, there are many different experimental designs that can be used to show deficits in the behavior of the disease models. For example, the mouse models of autism can be studied as their own group or they can socially interact with control mice to see if the social interactions have changed. Treated mouse models can be tested by using the same protocols. The ATT is therefore a useful tool to characterize the social behavior of mouse models.