Field: Neuroscience

Location: Queensland Brain Institute

Type of student: PhD or MPhil only

Human agenesis of the corpus callosum, autism spectrum disorder and brain wiring

Agenesis of the corpus callosum is a brain wiring alteration that occurs during brain development.  Many people have some characteristics that are similar to those with autism spectrum disorder. We are investigating brain wiring connectivity using high-field magnetic resonance imaging and neuropsychological testing to understand how brain connectivity underpins the function of the brain. We also want to understand the underlying causes of agenesis of the corpus callosum by performing genetic analyses of DNA from people with these disorders compared to controls.  The work will have a significant impact on our understanding of how changes in brain wiring impact brain function.

Opportunities exist for students with a background or interest in: Neuroscience, genetics, magnetic resonance imaging and physics, neuropsychology, medicine, computer science (data analysis and software development).

Function of genes and molecules in agenesis of the corpus callosum and brain developmental disorders

Identifying a causal genetic mutation in a person requires functional studies to determine if the mutation causes a change in the function of the gene. This work requires in-depth analysis in animal models to examine gene function in cellular proliferation, differentiation, migration and cortical wiring. We are interested to understand the basic mechanisms regulating these developmental events and hwo they are altered in human brain disorders including agenesis of the corpus callosum, ventriculomegaly, hydrocephalus and cortical malformations. This work has a significant translational impact on understanding the causes of brain developmental disorders.

Opportunities exist for students with a background or interest in: Neuroscience, genetics, cell biology, developmental biology, glial development, animal behaviour, medicine.

The function of early neuronal activity on the formation of neocortical circuits

How does the brain acquire its connectivity pattern during development? This project aims at elucidating the main roles of early sensory and spontaneous activity in the formation of neocortical circuits. By combining molecular, electrical and developmental manipulations in developing mammalian embryos and pups, this project will study how early events affect the precise formation of cortical features required for normal cognitive development. The work will have a significant impact on our understanding of how the brain is wired for function.

Opportunities exist for students with a background or interest in: Neuroscience, developmental neurobiology, neurophysiology, electrophysiological signal analysis and/or computational sciences, mathematical modelling, medicine.

Principles of neural development applied to understanding brain cancer

Brain cancer is a significant health problem in Australia. One of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer is glioblastoma (GBM) and the prognosis for these patients is extremely poor. What is needed is a deeper understanding of the cause of brain cancer. We are approaching this challenge by utilising the principles of neural development to understand how tumours first arise in the brain and how they are able to continue to grow and metastasize in order to find the causes and treatments for adult and pediatric brain cancers that originate from glia. Nuclear factor one (NFI) genes have been implicated in brain cancer and in glial development. We have generated a number of animal models of Nfi gene mis-expression to determine the function of NFI genes in brain cancer. This work will have a significant impact on our understanding of the cause and progression of brain cancer.

Opportunities exist for students with a background or interest in: Neuroscience, genetics, cell biology, developmental biology, glial development, animal behaviour, medicine.