This week, we had a Fragile X support group visit our SIDB labs for a tour and to ask questions.
Dr Sam Booker showed us around the electrophysiology suite (what we call the ‘fishbowl’ due to the glass walls!), and showed us some neurophysiology in action. Sam talked about how he visualises neurons in living brain tissue, using very small micropipettes to deliver electrical currents to neurons, to produce electrical signals that mimic function in life. He can then see how these neurons ‘communicate’ with each other using state-of-the-art microscopy and electrical recordings. In individuals with Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), these neurons can send inappropriate information to each other in different rhythmic patterns, leading to confusion of signals coming from the body about how we interpret the sensory world.
The behaviour team also showed videos of how we can model FXS in a rat model. Drs Raven Hickson and Anjie Harris showed us videos of ‘rat play’, and described how the behaviour of these rats can change if their genes are altered, such as in FXS. We also saw rats in a set-up called ‘The Habitat’. This enclosed space is more similar to a rats’ natural environment, compared to standard cages. This set-up includes equipment such as ladders and tunnels which facilitate more natural behaviours, as seen in the wild.
In the break sessions, Dr Emma Wood discussed her research which looks at spatial navigation and memory, and how these change in neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr Sally Till and her PhD student Harry Bradford-Dunk were also present to discuss their research on social and emotional processing in neurodevelopmental disorders, such FXS. Prof Peter Kind and Dr Andy Stanfield answered questions on FXS more generally and talked about the trials and treatments for FXS.
It was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to learn a little bit more about Fragile X Syndrome.