student profile: Mr Oliver Tan


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Thesis work

Thesis title: Development of an Oxytocin Circuit Stimulator

Supervisors: Michael BOWEN , Iain MCGREGOR

Thesis abstract:

The neuropeptide oxytocin has been shown to play an important role in a range of social behaviours such as trust, empathy and social interaction. As such, the oxytocin system has gained considerable interest as a potential novel therapeutic target for the treatment of a wide range of psychiatric disorders that feature social deficits as either core or secondary symptoms including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), social anxiety disorder, schizophrenia and substance-use disorders. Unfortunately, recent clinical trials examining the efficacy of intranasal oxytocin for treating social interaction and communication deficits in ASD populations have yielded only modest results and have overall been underwhelming in studies examining its efficacy to treat a wide range of psychiatric disorders. This failure of intranasal oxytocin to live up to its full therapeutic potential may be due to its poor pharmacokinetic properties, as studies have shown that only a very small proportion of intranasally administered oxytocin reaches the brain directly from its inability to diffuse through the blood-brain barrier. Hence, there is great potential for pharmacological therapeutics targeting the oxytocin system to produce more robust therapeutic effects by overcoming the pharmacokinetic challenges presented by oxytocin itself. This thesis will involve the phenotypic screening of compounds developed by Dr. Michael Bowen and colleagues by utilising a range of mouse models of ASD as well as the Social Fear Conditioning paradigm.

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