Pre-clinical studies of depression and anxiety

Pre-clinical studies of depression and anxiety

Chronic early life stress can lead to deficits in neurological development that increases the risk of developing mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Early life trauma has been shown to alter genes at the molecular level changing gene expression leading to neurodevelopmental abnormalities including smaller intracranial volume reduced hemispheric integration, and reduced white matter. In order to understand the mechanisms associated with neurological and psychological deficits associated with chronic early life stress our laboratory uses the well-established rodent model of limited nesting during post-natal development. The fragmented and chaotic nature of this care provokes profound chronic stress that recapitulates important elements of the human condition.

The overall aim of this research is to investigate therapies, both psychological and pharmacological, that can reverse the neurodevelopmental, cognitive, emotional, and social deficits associated with chronic early life stress. The research combines sophisticated functional neuroanatomical analysis with behaviour, to elucidate the neurons, circuitry and chemical underpinnings of these behaviours. This approach allows us to correlate these findings to behavioural improvements in cognition, emotional processing and socialization. These findings will then provide a rationale for translating these psychological or pharmacological interventions in the treatment of children whom have suffered early life trauma.