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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Molecular genetics of psychiatric disease

Supervisor: Professor Caroline Brennan

Project description

My research group is focused on understanding molecular genetic contributions to the aetiology of psychiatric disease. We use behavioural genetic and developmental analysis of zebrafish lines to explore cellular processes influencing behaviours associated with psychiatric disease and addiction. These behaviours include impulse control, attention, sensory-motor gating and other aspects of executive function such as memory and learning,

The first focus of the project is to understand how mutations that have been shown to be associated with behavioural phenotypes affect the development or functioning of specific neural pathways. For example, antibody staining and in situ hybridization analysis followed by confocal imaging in wild type and mutant lines will be used to test the hypothesis that the gene of interest affects early neuronal development or circuit formation. How environmental conditions impact on development of the pathways i.e. gene:environment interactions, may also be explored.

The second aim is to identify novel mutations influencing behaviours associated with psychiatric disease. Here we aim to screen lines of fish, obtained through collaboration with colleagues in the USA or generated using gene-editing techniques, to identify lines showing heritable behavioural phenotypes.
The translational relevance of results found in zebrafish will be explored by interrogation [e.g. focused SNP analysis] of existing human datasets or datasets obtained through collaboration with colleagues at the Institute of Public Health, QMUL.

The precise details of the project we be determined on discussion with the successful candidate. The successful candidate will need to be able to work independently, as well as working as part of a team. You will receive appropriate training for your research [e.g. behavioural analysis in larval and adult zebrafish, confocal imaging, gene expression analysis and bioinformatics].

Eligibility and applying

Applications are invited from candidates with, or expecting to be awarded, a first class honours degree (or equivalent qualification) or MSc in an area relevant to the project (e.g. biology, psychology, genetics). International students are required to provide evidence of their proficiency in English language skills. Informal enquiries about the project can be made by email to Professor Caroline Brennan (

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