Group Leader : Pat Nolan
The focus of our work is to investigate the molecular basis of mammalian behaviour and, in doing so, to improve our understanding of central nervous system function in human physiological and diseased states. Use of the chemical mutagen, ENU, along with hierarchical screening protocols has indicated that phenotype-based approaches in the mouse are useful in gaining an insight into molecular pathways associated with complex mammalian behaviours. We use automated in-cage systems to monitor these complex behaviours.
The first class of mutations being screened for are those which affect the mammalian circadian clock. The second class are those that affect cognitive timing mechanisms. Positional cloning of mutations identified in these screens is complemented by carrying out molecular analysis of novel mutations. Primarily this involves histological analysis and expression analysis in brain regions suspected to be associated with particular behaviours. For example, circadian rhythms are associated with molecular oscillations in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. Gene function is being further characterised in cell-based models using a range of molecular tools.