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The Developmental Neurobiology Research Stream is based at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and led by Professor Darryl Eyles. This Research Stream is comprised of two research groups – the Eyles Group led by Professor Darryl Eyles, and the Burne Group led by Associate Professor Thomas Burne.

The Eyles Group

The Eyles Group focuses on how early epidemiologically-validated risk factors for schizophrenia and autism, change the way the brain develops and functions with a particular focus on dopamine systems. We also want to understand how the adolescent brain progresses towards a hyperdopaminergic state.

Lab History

  • In 2010 we established that low maternal levels of vitamin D was a risk factor for schizophrenia and autism in newborn dried blood spots using an assay developed by the group. This has initiated 15 international collaborations funded by 2 NIH grants and 3 NHMRC grants.
  • Via our collaboration in Zurich we have now shown vitamin D is capable of blocking all symptom phenotypes in a maternal immune activation model of schizophrenia. (funded by 2 NHMRC grants).
  • Our latest studies show that maternal vitamin D deficiency, maternal immune activation and prenatal hypoxia (well validated risk factors for schizophrenia) all affect the early differentiation, positioning and connectivity of dopamine neurons. This exciting discovery may mean that the cause of schizophrenia (where there is abnormal dopamine signalling) may be due to very early alterations in the ontogeny of these neurons. We are now focused on the exact convergent mechanisms. (funded by multiple NHMRC grants).
  • We have recently shown the molecular processes behind how maternal vitamin D deficiency increases testosterone in developing brains. This work may have broader implications for why autism is more common in boys. (funded by 1 NHMRC grant)
  • Sub-cortical dopamine systems are pre-symptomatically hyperactive in schizophrenia selectively in a circuit known as the dorsal striatum. Using a novel genetic construct used to treat Parkinson’s disease (Lund University) we have now developed a model of this important aspect of the schizophrenia prodrome.  In collaboration with the clinical group who first showed that dopamine abnormalities were presymptomatic in patients at King’s College London we have now been able to completely replicate this circuit abnormality progressively across late adolescence in an animal model. We are now using this model to understand:
    • how interconnected circuits become dysfunctional in schizophrenia,
    • how this may produce hyperinflammatory conditions in the midbrain
    • how such circuits interact with stress and psychoactive compounds
    • To trial potential prophylactic agents to block/retard the onset of schizophrenia. (funded by 1 NHMRC grant)

Visit the Eyles Group on the Queensland Brain Insitute website for more information on the group’s team members, funding, and publications.

The Burne Group

The Burne group studies the underlying biological basis for schizophrenia, with the goal of finding public health interventions that will alleviate the burden of this disease.

The laboratory has been exploring the impact of developmental vitamin D deficiency on brain development, the impact of adult vitamin D deficiency on brain function and behaviour and, more recently, has been establishing novel ways to assess cognitive behaviour in rodents.

In 2015, the Burne laboratory built on previous research on low prenatal vitamin D (the “sunshine hormone”) to show that adult vitamin D deficiency is also associated with alterations in behaviour, brain neurochemistry and receptor profiles. They have discovered that low vitamin D levels during adulthood affect the balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain, and also alter cognitive behaviour in rodents. These results provide the first evidence in mice to show that adult vitamin D deficiency impacts on neurotransmitter systems that are affected in a number of neuropsychiatric conditions, including autism, schizophrenia and depression.

Ongoing NHMRC funding allows the laboratory to dissect the exact neural pathways involved in cognitive impairments of attentional processing in vitamin D–deficient animals to model the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.

The Burne laboratory has also created and validated a unique cognitive task for rodents that mirrors the continuous performance task in humans. The laboratory’s goal is to provide a novel tool for cognitive research in rodents and to uncover more about the pathophysiology and drug treatment of cognitive symptoms in schizophrenia.

Visit the Burne Group on the Queensland Brain Insitute website for more information on the group’s team members, funding, and publications.

External links

Queensland Brain Institute - Eyles Group

Visit the Eyles Group page on the University of Queensland’s website.

The Eyles laboratory focuses on how early epidemiologically-validated risk factors for schizophrenia and autism, change the way the brain develops and functions with a particular focus on dopamine systems. We also want to understand how the adolescent brain progresses towards a hyperdopaminergic state.

Read more
Queensland Brain Institute - Burne Group

Visit the Burne Group page on the University of Queensland’s website.

The Burne laboratory studies the underlying biological basis for schizophrenia, with the goal of finding public health interventions that will alleviate the burden of this disease.

Read more

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