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Peter Magill

Our overall goal is to provide detailed explanations of how brain circuit organisation supports normal and impaired behaviours. Focusing on a brain region called the basal ganglia, we monitor and manipulate different types of nerve cell to provide new insights into how their host networks operate. In taking advantage of the new understanding gained, we use specialised nerve cell types as entry points for novel therapeutic interventions that are designed to correct the brain circuit disorganisation and behavioural difficulties that arise in disease.

We recognise that the burden of disease is not borne evenly across all cell types in the brain.  It is thus imperative that the design of new strategies for treating disease symptoms is tempered by a mature knowledge of how different cell types fulfil their specialised roles to govern behaviour.  The overarching goal of our Programme is to fill this knowledge gap by delivering high-resolution readouts and mechanistic explanations of brain motor circuit organization in the context of normal behaviours as well as impaired Parkinsonian behaviours.  Focusing on the ‘motor domains’ of basal ganglia and thalamocortical circuits, we harness cutting-edge technologies for identifying, monitoring, accessing and manipulating neurons in vivo to provide fundamental new insights into the specific cellular substrates of the neuronal network dynamics therein.  We place special emphasis on defining how the interactions and activities of identified cell types in these motor circuits vary according to the temporal profile of dopamine release and movement.  As a key corollary of this, we define how a paucity of dopamine release, as occurs in Parkinson’s disease and its animal models, impacts on the neuronal encoding of behaviour in these motor circuits.  In capitalising on the new level of understanding of the dynamics of identified neurons that is gained here, we also endeavour to exploit specified cell types and other circuit elements as novel points of entry for spatiotemporally-patterned interventions designed to not only dissect circuit function but also to correct circuit dysfunction and related behavioural deficits in Parkinsonism.

 We couple novel and advanced analytical techniques with experimental interventions that probe causal interactions between specified circuit elements with high spatiotemporal precision.  Our experiments centre on the use of wild type and genetically-altered rodents with intact or comprised midbrain dopaminergic systems, the readouts from which straddle multiple levels of function including molecular/genetic, structural, electrophysiological and behavioural.

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