Characterising novel drug therapies to target cognitive symptoms in schizophrenia
The Synapse Biology & Cognition Laboratory is focused on understanding the critical role synaptic genes and proteins play in shaping excitatory/inhibitory wiring and connectivity in the brain, that enables complex cognition and higher order processing in the healthy brain, and in mental conditions where these processes go awry.
Modelling the complex cognitive processes routinely assessed in the clinical setting has been challenging in animal models. Bridging the gap between preclinical and clinical cognitive testing, the touchscreen methodology that A/Prof Nithianantharajah was involved in early during its development, application and commercialisation at the University of Cambridge, provides an innovative tool for dissecting higher cognitive functions in rodents that is highly analogous to cognitive assessment of clinical populations.
This project will investigate the efficacy of novel drug targets to reverse cognitive and underlying neural changes in pharmacological and genetic models of schizophrenia, working in collaboration with Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Using rodent touchscreen tasks to probe selective cognitive constructs combined with pharmacology and in vivo manipulations (fibre photometry), these studies will elucidate the effectiveness of novel therapies to address cognitive dysfunction in mental disorders.