Using DREADDs to deconstruct motor neuron disease

Motor neuron disease is caused by selective loss of both brain and spinal cord motor neurons, leading to progressive muscle weakness, paralysis and death typically by respiratory failure. The loss of brain and spinal cord motor neurons is postulated to result from their chronic electrical over-activity (hyperexcitability) – increasingly recognised as an important pathological factor in MND. However, knowledge of which neuronal population initiates the degenerative process in MND remains unclear.


  • Examine the effect on neuronal degeneration, muscular atrophy and subsequent motor behaviour deficits following chronic stimulation/activity of:
    • brain motor neurons that physically project to spinal cord motor neurons and,
    • spinal cord motor neurons that directly connect to muscle fibres.

To achieve the aim of this project, we plan to use an innovative and powerful tool called DREADD technology. This method allows for the selective and chronic ‘activation’ of targeted neuronal pathways in the rodent central nervous system, therefore allowing us to experimentally model chronic neuronal hyperexcitability that occurs in MND patients.

This project will employ stereotaxic viral surgeries to deliver DREADDs to discrete brain and spinal cord regions, mouse behavioural studies, advanced microscopy and 3D reconstructions, immunohistological and biochemical techniques.

Take part in this project

Student applications

Students who are applying to study at The Florey can register their interest in this project. Refer to our step-by-step guide to help you with your application.

How to apply

Accepting students

Contact us

If you’re interested in learning more about this project please contact our team.

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please enter a valid phone number
Please enter a correct email address
Please provide information regarding your enquiry