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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: Modelling decision making in C. elegans to understand neural mechanisms of major psychiatric disorders

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Genetic differences have been identified in individuals with autism and schizophrenia. Here we are using the model organism C. elegans to investigate how these genetic differences bring about changes in the function of neural circuits.

Processing within neural circuits that underlie the integration and processing of sensory information to drive decision making processes is impaired in complex neuropsychiatric conditions, such as autism and schizophrenia.  Whilst a wide spectrum of different genes have been implicated, it is not clear how changes in the function of these genes bring about altered signalling at the level of integrative circuits that underpin cognitive processing. The model organism C. elegans provides a simple tractable system for a gene to circuit approach to the study of decision making.

GFP fluorescence: MGL-1 is an orthologoue of the mammalian metabotropic glutamate receptors that have been implicated in autism and schizophrenia
Expression pattern of mgl-1 in the nervous system of C. elegans

We are using CRISPr approaches to make precise manipulations to disrupt the normal function of orthologous C. elegans genes implicated in autism and schizophrenia and characterise how these impact upon the activity of integrative circuits that co-ordinate decision making.

Principle Investigator & Supervisors: Professor Lindy Holden-DyeDr James Dillon and Professor Vincent O’Connor
Funding provider: Gerald Kerkut Charitable Trust
Funding dates: October 2017-September 2020

Related research groups

Biomedical Sciences
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