By understanding how the millions of neurons within a specific brain area are interconnected and what patterns of activity are present during normal behaviour, we can begin to decipher the molecular, structural and functional changes that occur in neurological diseases. One key finding in patients and mouse models of autism or Fragile X Syndrome is abnormal dendritic spine morphology and function, which leads to disrupted neural network formation and severe impairments in cognition and learning and memory.
The advent of modern brain imaging allows for the non-invasive examination of the brain at an extraordinary level of detail. The Patrick Wild Centre builds on the outstanding international reputation of The University of Edinburgh in brain imaging of both humans and animals, developing and implementing new imaging technologies. Researchers from the Centre for Integrative Physiology apply a wide range of imaging and microscopy techniques to animal models of these conditions, including the cutting edge non-invasive multiphoton imaging of fluorescently labelled neurons. Functional magnetic resonance imaging in conscious animals is also conducted in collaboration with the Edinburgh Preclinical Imaging group. This work is all conducted in parallel with large human brain imaging programmes to maximise translational relevance.