Quick Project Snapshot

Understanding autism

Our group aims to understand the molecular cause of autism and to discover therapeutic interventions.

This could be achieved by understanding the neural circuit involves in social interaction and communication..

We will utilise transgenic mice, behavioural studies,  immunohistological techniques, epigenetics and molecular biology.

Dr Wah Chin Boon

Steroid Neurobiology Laboratory

Sex hormones such as oestrogens and androgens (e.g. testosterone) affect human behaviour. Oestrogens are produced in the brain from testosterone and these locally synthesised oestrogens may modulate neuronal functions and provide neuroprotection. The conversion of oestrogens from androgens is catalysed by the enzyme aromatase, but its localisation in the brain is poorly understood. We overcame this problem by using a transgenic mouse model with an enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP) tagged to the aromatase to examine its functional disposition.

Our lab has identified EGFP-aromatase expression in the neurones of many brain regions under normal physiological conditions, and these brain regions have been previously reported to be involved in behaviour. Male adult mice have more aromatase-expressing neurones. Furthermore, we noticed that oestrogen receptors are found in neurones expressing aromatase or in close proximity to aromatase-positive neurons, supporting the idea that locally produced oestrogens modulate neuronal functions.

All Projects by this Lab

Understanding autism


Scientists in the Neurodegeneration division interrogate how neurones live, die and can be rescued to improve brain function in degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Motor Neuron Diseases. There is no effective treatment for Motor Neurone Disease and the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease is rising alarmingly in our aging community. Gene abnormalities, energy deprivation, toxic rubbish accumulation and inflammation all contribute to a toxic environment for brain cells. Our teams study these events in animal models and cultured cells, with a view to translating knowledge into new therapies for human patients.

All Labs that operate in this Division

Atomic Pathology LaboratoryCreutzfeldt Jakob Disease Clinical Research GroupMolecular Gerontology LaboratoryMotor Neurone Disease LaboratoryNational Dementia Diagnostics LaboratoryNeurochemistry of Metal IonsNeurogenesis and Neural Transplantation LaboratoryNeuropathology and Neurodegeneration LaboratoryNeuroproteomics and Metalloproteomics LaboratoryNeurotherapeutics LaboratoryParkinson's Disease LaboratoryPre-clinical Parkinson’s Disease Research LaboratoryPresynaptic Physiology Stem Cells and Neural Development LaboratorySteroid Neurobiology LaboratorySynaptic Neurobiology LaboratoryThe Australian Imaging Biomarker and Lifestyle Study (AIBL)