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 will build on the outstanding international reputation of The University of Edinburgh in brain imaging of both humans and animals, developing and implementing new imaging technologies. Investigators in the Division of Psychiatry will use the state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography instruments for human brain imaging at the new multi-million pound Clinical Research Imaging Centre. They will work in parallel with researchers from the Centre for Integrative Physiology, who will 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. This approach will provide a unique opportunity for researchers and clinicians to combine their expertise to achieve the common goal of generating novel therapies to treat humans suffering from autism, Fragile X Syndrome or learning disabilities.