Head of laboratory
The Neuropsychiatry Laboratory is principally concerned with determining the molecular mechanisms at the site of nerve connections, called synapses, which go awry in psychiatric conditions such as the psychoses and depression. To this end we have a research program that ascertains how both psychological stress and physical stress, such as that due to bacterial or viral infections, change the molecular machinery of the synapse in such a way as to exaggerate an existing genetic propensity for the synapse to malfunction or indeed to be lost entirely. Of particular interest is the extent to which particular parts of the brain, such as those that must function in order for us to express normal psychological functions as in memory, fail to do so during development as a consequence of synaptic failure. This research so far has shown the extent to which principal cell types in the brain, namely neurons, astrocyte glial cells and microglial cells, all interact at the synapse and do so in such a way as to integrate the activity of both the neural and immune systems. It is for this reason that stress, invoking a strong immunological response has such powerful inﬂuences on the neural networks of the brain.
The laboratory houses new transgenic mice whose genome has been manipulated to produce changes in their nervous systems so that they are excellent models for various human nervous system diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and clinical depression. The other purpose of this laboratory is to provide a whole range of animal behavioural facilities that enable testing the extent to which the transgenic mice are good models of a particular nervous system disease and to also test the extent to which new compounds, synthesized in our Drug Discovery Laboratory, can put aright what has gone wrong in the nervous system of these animals.