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The Developmental Neurobiology Research Stream is based at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and led by Professor Darryl Eyles.

This Research Stream is comprised of two research groups, the Eyles Group, led by  Professor Darryl Eyles, and the Burne Group, led by Associate Professor Thomas Burne.

The Eyles Group

The Eyles Group, has a particular focus on dopamine systems, and how risk factors for schizophrenia and autism, such as developmental vitamin D (DVD) deficiency and maternal immune activation, change the way the brain develops and functions. In 2015 the group made four major discoveries:

In 2015 the group made four major discoveries that continue to underpin the group’s current work:

  1. In 2010, in collaboration with Professor John McGrath, they established that low maternal levels of vitamin D was a risk factor for schizophrenia. The group has now initiated studies into the relationship between DVD deficiency and autism, with five international collaborations funded by two NIH grants and one NHMRC grant. Initial results indicate DVD deficiency is also a risk factor for impaired social behaviour in children, and autism in particular.
  2. Schizophrenia is closely associated with abnormalities in dopamine transmission. The lab’s work in DVD-deficient animals confirms early abnormalities in dopamine development and turnover. In 2015, using human cell systems, the group described for the first time how vitamin D exerts direct control over dopamine production via the vitamin D receptor (Neuroscience, 2015).
  3. The group’s collaboration in Zurich has now shown vitamin D is capable of blocking all symptom phenotypes in a maternal immune activation model of schizophrenia. This work (currently under review) has tremendous translational potential.
  4. Sub-cortical dopamine systems are pre-symptomatically hyperactive in schizophrenia. Using a novel genetic construct used to treat Parkinson’s disease (Lund University), the group developed a model of this important aspect of the schizophrenia prodrome. In collaboration with the clinical group who first showed that dopamine abnormalities were pre-symptomatic in patients at Imperial College London, the Eyles lab were able to completely replicate this phenomenon in an animal model. The group hopes that, using this model, they will be able to trial all current agents directed against preventing the clinical transition to schizophrenia.
The Burne Group

The Burne Group studies brain development and behaviour in animal models. The laboratory is focused on investigating the underlying biological basis for schizophrenia, with the goal of finding public health interventions that will alleviate the burden of this disease.

The laboratory has been exploring the impact of developmental vitamin D deficiency on brain development, the impact of adult vitamin D deficiency on brain function and behaviour and, more recently, has been establishing novel ways to assess cognitive behaviour in rodents.

In 2015, the Burne laboratory built on previous research on low prenatal vitamin D (the “sunshine hormone”) to show that adult vitamin D deficiency is also associated with alterations in behaviour, brain neurochemistry and receptor profiles. They have discovered that low vitamin D levels during adulthood affect the balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain, and also alter cognitive behaviour in rodents. These results provide the first evidence in mice to show that adult vitamin D deficiency impacts on neurotransmitter systems that are affected in a number of neuropsychiatric conditions, including autism, schizophrenia and depression.

Ongoing NHMRC funding allows the laboratory to dissect the exact neural pathways involved in cognitive impairments of attentional processing in vitamin D–deficient animals to model the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.

The Burne laboratory has also created and validated a unique cognitive task for rodents that mirrors the continuous performance task in humans. The laboratory’s goal is to provide a novel tool for cognitive research in rodents and to uncover more about the pathophysiology and drug treatment of cognitive symptoms in schizophrenia.

External links

Queensland Brain Institute - Eyles Group

Visit the Eyles Group page on the University of Queensland’s website.

With a particular focus on dopamine systems, the Eyles laboratory focuses on how risk factors for schizophrenia and autism, such as developmental vitamin D (DVD) deficiency and maternal immune activation, change the way the brain develops and functions.

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Queensland Brain Institute - Burne Group

Visit the Burne Group page on the University of Queensland’s website.

Associate Professor Thomas Burne’s laboratory studies brain development and behaviour in animal models. The laboratory is focussed on investigating the underlying biological basis for schizophrenia, with the goal of finding public health interventions that will alleviate the burden of this disease.

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