Connections in the Brain

Chris will analyse the connections between cells in the brain to discover if a loss of these connections is associated with the changes in behaviour and brain function in people with MND.

MND is caused by a breakdown of cells in the brain and in the spinal cord, which regulate muscle control.

However damage in the brain is not restricted to the regions controlling movement, suggesting that symptoms of the disease may be due to dysfunction of numerous brain areas. In support of this idea, approximately half of all people with MND also have changes in their behaviour and brain function, which could be accounted for by disruption in non-movement areas of the brain.

Through this study, Chris will analyse the connections (synapses) between cells in the brain, in both movement and non-movement areas, to discover if a loss of these connections is associated with the changes in behaviour and brain function in people with MND.

He will collect data from people with MND who may have experienced some changes in their behaviour or ability to make decisions and compare them against those who had the disease but did not experience any of these changes, and against people who did not have the disease.

Why is this important?

This is important because recently some of the faulty genes known to be associated with MND were linked to a type of dementia called frontotemporal dementia (FTD). In fact, some people with MND have such severe changes in brain function that they are diagnosed with MND and FTD (MND-FTD).

Researchers know that the brains from people with FTD contain fewer synapses compared with healthy people, but they don’t know if brains from people with MND have fewer synapses.

This project will use state-of-the-art imaging technologies to examine the cells of MND brains at post-mortem to analyse the integrity of the connections between them. This type of research is vital for advancing our understanding of MND and necessary for the design of new drugs for the disease.

Find out more

For further information please contact:

Dr. Chris Henstridge
PostDoctoral Associate
Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems
University of Edinburgh
chris.henstridge@ed.ac.uk

MND patients will be recruited via the Scottish MND Register and written consent will be obtained before death.

Project title: High Resolution Imaging of cortical synaptic integrity in Motor Neurone Disease.

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“Donating money to MND research provides scientists with the financial backing to push the boundaries of our current knowledge. It allows them to test that new idea, try that new approach and find that next piece of the puzzle. This support is vital if new breakthroughs in understanding and treatment of MND are to be achieved.”

Dr Chris Henstridge

Dr Chris Henstridge

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