NHMRC Research Fellowship: Neural circuits that underpin fear and anxiety (2015–2019)
This application is for a Research Fellowship at the level of PRF. My laboratory is a leader in understanding neurons and circuits within a part of the brain called the amygdala which is involved in emotional learning and memory formation. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to a range of anxiety type disorders such as post-traumatic stress syndrome and generalised anxiety. This program of research will use state of the art optogenetic and electrophysiology techniques to study the neural circuits that provide sensory information to the amygdala. We will deliver optogenetic constructs into brain nuclei that project to the amygdala using viral injections. The properties of afferents to the amygdala will then be tested using whole-cell recordings in acute brain slices. Using single-unit recordings in awake behaving animals we will also determine how
information is encoded in amygdala circuits and how memories are formed and retrieved. Knowing the neural circuits will provide the foundation to understand how fear is processed in the brain and provide novel targets for the treatment of disorders that engage these circuits. In
collaboration with neurologists in Brisbane we will also make recordings from emotion and motor circuits in humans. These recordings will
allow us to understand information processing in the human brain. Over the next 5 years, these studies will together provide us with a detailed understanding of the neural circuits that mediate fear learning in the mammalian brain. In the long-term, my vision is to have an integrated biological understanding of anxiety-related disorders, and to help to develop targeted therapeutics to treat and manage them.