Synapse Biology and Cognition Laboratory
Sensory information from the environment is ultimately processed at the level of synapses, the connection between neurons that form the most fundamental information-processing units in the nervous system. A central research focus of the lab is to understand the role of synaptic genes in cognition and disease.
Vertebrate synapses contain a large yet intricately organised signalling complex of proteins encompassing neurotransmitter receptors, scaffold proteins and cell adhesion proteins. In recent years, human genetic studies have increasingly highlighted that disruption of over 200 genes that encode postsynaptic proteins result in over 130 brain diseases. While it is accepted that postsynaptic proteins are fundamental for synaptic function, plasticity and thus behaviour, very little is actually known about the impact of postsynaptic gene mutations in regulating complex cognition and higher order processing. Moreover, modelling the complex cognitive processes that are routinely assessed in the clinical setting has been challenging in animal models.
Towards bridging the gap between mouse and human cognitive testing, the lab is employing novel behavioural technologies such as the recently developed rodent touchscreens as an innovative tool for dissecting higher cognitive functions in rodents.
A glimpse at our researchUnderstanding the role of synaptic genes in cognition and disease
The Division of Behavioural Neuroscience focuses on the use and development of models that reflect aspects of human disorders such as addiction, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, autism and neurodegenerative conditions such as Huntington’s disease. The Cognitive Neuroscience group additionally studies cognitive disorders caused by diseases such as stroke (cerebrovascular disease), Alzheimer's disease and other dementias from a clinical perspective.