Neurobiology

Neurobiology

Neurobiology is the study of the central and peripheral nervous systems at the cellular level. It encompasses the study of individual nerve cells and the network of cells that are able to process information and mediate an organism's behavior.

The importance of neurobiology research cannot be understated. Disorders of the nervous system are prevalent and wide-ranging, and they are impacting Canada and other countries around the world in increasingly substantial ways. The lack of effective treatment options for many neurodegenerative diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Huntington's disease—in addition to the commonplace difficulty of effectively detecting and properly treating mental health-related illnesses including Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder—suggest that far more emphasis must be placed in neurobiology research both at the benchtop and within the clinical setting.

Our Research

Many of our principal investigators are focused on some aspect of neurobiological research. Our longstanding commitment to neurobiology, high level of involvement, and track record of important discoveries make us a leading research institution in this field.

Our discovery programs cover a large breadth of neurobiological topics that range from embryonic neurodevelopment to neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and frontotemporal dementia. We also conduct research in the mental health discipline, studying key illnesses that includes schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

We approach the study of neurobiology through many angles. We use mouse mutants, experimental embryology, and reference populations to study how single genes, or ensembles of genes, participate to support the normal development and function of the central nervous system. With the help of cutting-edge informatics and ultra high-resolution digital imaging, we explore the topology of the developing fetal brain to track the onset, mechanism, and progression of disorders in the central nervous system. We also use mouse models to study aberrant behaviors caused by various neurological diseases. In partnership with the Huntington's Disease Clinic, we conduct research in the clinical setting to help us better understand the progression of Huntington's disease and evaluate new methods of therapeutic interventions.

Some key advances in the field of neurobiology realized at the CMMT include the development of the YAC128 mouse model for Huntington's disease and the discovery of a link between a gene called NR2E1 and manic-depressive psychosis, a mental illness that can develop during childhood. We were also the first to discover an intervention in any animal model for Huntington's disease to prevent the motor, cognitive and neuropathological features of the illness.

Publications

Kumar RA, McGhee KA, Leach S, Bonaguro R, Maclean A, Aguirre-Hernandez R, Abrahams BS, Coccaro EF, Hodgins S, Turecki G, Condon A, Muir WJ, Brooks-Wilson AR, Blackwood DH, Simpson EM. Initial association of NR2E1 with bipolar disorder and identification of candidate mutations in bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and aggression through resequencing. Am. J. Med. Genet. B Neuropsychiatr. Genet. 147B(6):880-9. (2008) PMID 18205168

Graham RK, Deng Y, Slow EJ, Haigh B, Bissada N, Lu G, Pearson J, Shehadeh J, Bertram L, Murphy Z, Warby SC, Doty CN, Roy S, Wellington CL, Leavitt BR, Raymond LA, Nicholson DW, Hayden MR. Cleavage at the caspase-6 site is required for neuronal dysfunction and degeneration due to mutant huntingtin. Cell 125(6):1179-91. (2006) PMID 16777606

Young KA, Berry ML, Mahaffey CL, Saionz JR, Hawes NL, Chang B, Zheng QY, Smith RS, Bronson RT, Nelson RJ, Simpson EM. Fierce: a new mouse deletion of Nr2e1; violent behaviour and ocular abnormalities are background-dependent. Behav. Brain Res. 132(2):145-58. (2002) PMID 11997145