Associate Professor Jess Nithianantharajah
BSc (Hons), PhD
Associate Professor Jess Nithianantharajah is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and heads the Synapse Biology and Cognition laboratory. She completed her doctorate in behavioural neuroscience at the University of Melbourne, examining synaptic changes following learning and experience. She then commenced postdoctoral training at The Florey to further investigate gene-environment interactions most dulating experience-dependent synaptic plasticity. Professor Seth Grant recruited her as a postdoctoral fellow at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK. During that time, she also held a joint appointment at the University of Cambridge, working with Professor Tim Bussey and Professor Lisa Saksida on developing the rodent touchscreen cognitive tests – an innovative behavioural tool for mice that have advanced how we model complex learning and mental processes in animals. She then relocated to the University of Edinburgh before returning to The Florey as an independent group leader.
Associate Professor Nithianantharajah’s research interests lie in understanding the role of synaptic genes in cognition and disease. Employing the rodent touchscreen assays to probe distinct cognitive components, Jess’s work provided the first evidence of dissecting the cognitive repertoire in mice to show that these cognitive components are differentially regulated by a family of postsynaptic scaffold proteins, providing novel insights into the evolution of cognition. Moreover, her research has been the first to showcase the translational capacity of the touchscreens in assessing cognition in mice and humans carrying mutations in the same gene, providing a novel approach for how to bridge the divide from animal to human studies towards delivering precision medicine for cognitive disorders.
- Characterising novel drug therapies to target cognitive symptoms in schizophrenia
- Elucidating the molecular drivers underlying schizophrenia
- Deep-learning based tracking of behaviour in preclinical models for mental illness
- Manipulating disrupted neuromodulator signalling to treat maladaptive cognitive behaviour in neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders
- Measuring how excitatory-inhibitory synapse imbalance disrupts neural activity underlying cognitive behaviour in neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders