Neural diversity in the habenula

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Inst of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sci


Neurons in the brains are divided into excitatory and inhibitory neurons forming complex neuronal networks. A detailed characterization of various neuronal cell types and their connections is essential to gain an understanding of how neurons communicate with each other, of how a particular part of the brain functions, and of why it is affected in disease.
The habenula is a small nuclear brain structure, which has been shown to be involved in the development of depressive disorders, but also in reward behaviour. The inability of experiencing pleasure and delight might be explained by hyperactive habenular neurons, which subsequently inhibit reward centres in the brain. Of note, neurons in the habenula have only been poorly characterized to date. By using multiple whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in brain slices we will classify habenular neurons and analyse the synaptic connections between these neurons. To the best of our knowledge a detailed characterisation of these neurons is still lacking.
This project will fill a gap and gather much needed information of the functional properties of habenular neurons, as well as how these neurons integrate in neuronal circuits. This novel information will be useful for behavioural and computational neuroscientists interested in the role of the habenula in reward behaviour; more importantly it should supply information for clinical and basic scientists intrigued to understand the cause of depressive disorders.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509760/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1811637 Studentship EP/N509760/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2019 Jack Webster
Description The overall aim of this project is to identify and characterise the neuronal circuitry within the habenula, a brain structure known to be hyperactive in major depressive disorder. Within this project, we have used various genetically altered mouse lines to defined new long-range inputs to the habenula from other brain regions, along with characterising multiple new groups of neurons within the habenula itself. we are currently in the process of writing a paper on these findings which we aim to submit in the near future.
Exploitation Route By providing new insight into the neural circuitry that the habenula comprises, this research can potentially help build a platform which can be used to understand the pathology within major depressive disorder.
Sectors Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology