Developmental Neurobiology Laboratory

Lab head: Catherine Leamey
Location: F13 - Anderson Stuart Building

The mammalian cortex is composed of many discrete areas that have unique functions. Each area has its own sets of inputs, outputs, internal circuitry and cytoarchitecture. These sets of connections underlie our ability to see, hear, speak, move, learn and reason; yet the mechanisms that allow the appropriate connections to form during development remain unknown. A number of neurological disorders such as autism, Retts syndrome, mental retardation and schizophrenia are believed to be a result of alterations in connectivity in the developing brain. This laboratory uses the somatosensory and visual pathways of the developing mouse as a model to investigate the role of specific molecules in regulating the pattern of cortical connectivity. Recent work from the laboratory has shown that a transmembrane protein, which is highly expressed in the developing visual system, plays a key role in establishing the normal connectivity of the visual pathway. Mice which lack the molecule have marked changes in the organisation of neuronal projections from the eye to the brain and most interestingly appear to have profound defects in vision.

An understanding of the mechanisms which allow appropriate sets of neural connections to form during development will ultimately lead to the development of treatments to promote neuronal regeneration following injury and therapies for developmental neurological disorders.

Lab members: C Leamey (head)

Development and plasticity of the nervous system

Primary supervisor: Catherine Leamey

  1. The visual pathway deficits which occur in Ten_m3 mutant mice present an ideal model to determine the relative roles of experience and molecular cues in generating neural circuits. Projects examining this issue are available.

  2. Ten-m3 is also expressed in other brain circuits. Specifically it is expressed in the basal ganglia _ a region that integrates sensori-motor information and is involved in planning actions. Projects that will examine potential alterations in basal ganglia circuitry are available.

  3. Current data suggests that Ten_m3 is able to regulate the expression of other proteins. We have recently performed a screen to identify potential candidates. Projects that will examine temporospatial expression patterns of select candidates are available.

  4. There is evidence to suggest that Ten_m3 may be able to modify the growth of not only pre-synaptic but also post-synaptic structures and may also modify synapses themselves. Projects that will examine these issues are available.

  5. Recent studies have shown that neural development can be profoundly influenced by experience. Modification of an animal's environment to make it more complex (called enrichment) can increase neuron and synapse number as well as improving cognitive function. Projects examining the molecular and anatomical effects of enrichment are available.

Some of these are offered as collaborative projects in association with Dr Atomu Sawatari's laboratory. Other projects associated with other aspects of development, such as neural plasticity, are also available on request.

Discipline: Physiology