Aditi Bhattacharya and Eric Klann
Persons with pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) exhibit a range of cognitive deficits that hamper their quality of life, including difficulties involving communication, sociability, and perspective-taking. In recent years, a variety of studies in mice that model genetic syndromes with a high risk of PDD have provided insights into the underlying molecular mechanisms associated with these disorders. What is less appreciated is how the molecular anomalies affect neuronal and circuit function to give rise to the cognitive deficits associated with PDD. In this review, we describe genetic mutations that cause PDD and discuss how they alter fundamental social and cognitive processes. We then describe efforts to correct cognitive impairments associated with these disorders and identify areas of further inquiry in the search for molecular targets for therapeutics for PDD.