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Zebrafish Models of Psychiatric Disorders

How do disorder risk genes influence brain development and animal behaviour?

According to the Word Health Organization, 1 in every 8 people in the world live with a mental disorder, which involve significant disturbances in thinking, emotional regulation, or behaviour. Protective and risk factors include individual psychological and biological factors, as well as genetics.  Many of these factors are influenced through changes in brain structure and/or function. 

We concentrate mainly on Major Depressive Disorder, Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder, which together represent the majority of all mental health-affected people. 

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We concentrate on the validation of gene candidates that were linked to these disorders through genome-wide association studies. We assesses the consequences of gene mutations in zebrafish on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying neural circuit formation and animal behaviour. High-throughput approaches using live zebrafish larvae allow small-molecule or general pharmacological screens aiming at identifying compounds to develop novel therapeutic strategies. 

Our tests include disorder-relevant behaviours, including appetite, sleep, anxiety, locomotion and social preference.

Together with the cellular and biochemical analyses we define endophenotypes that allow us to understand better the aetiology of the disorders and the design of possible compound screens. 

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