Scheme: Newton International Fellowships
Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Dates: Jan 2014-Dec 2015
Summary: In all mammals, regulation of reproduction requires co-ordination of sexual behaviour with endocrine secretion from the pituitary gland and production of sex steroid hormones. In recent years, a novel neuropeptide system has been shown to have a key role in controlling this endocrine secretion. Most recently, these neuropeptides, called kisspeptins, have also been found in areas of the brain that regulate social behavior (e.g. the amygdala).
The ability to manipulate neuronal activity in a highly temporal and specific manner is necessary to answer fundamental questions in Neuroscience. The application of recent advances in neural engineering technology enables this manipulation in vivo through the use of optogenetics. Optogenetics combines the use of genetic engineering and optical light stimulation to activate (depolarise) or inhibit (hyperpolarise) specific neurons. That activation can be accomplished by using channelrhodopsin, a non-selective cation channel that causes the depolarization and firing of the specific neurons where it is expressed.
The aim of my current work is to address whether amygdala kisspeptin neurons coordinate the activity of the gonadotropic axis with appropriate sexual/social behaviors. The major innovative elements of this work are in the combination of in vitro electrophysiology, reproductive physiology and optogenetics.