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How do drugs used to treat mood disorders affect brain networks?

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Master’s, PhD
Dr Phil Heyward


The axons of brain neurons interconnect brain regions, forming functional networks that underlie behaviours, and that engender experience including mood and emotion. Medicines used to treat mood disorders (e.g. Li+ for bipolar disorder, SSRIs for depression) may affect the functional connectivity of brain networks; emerging evidence suggests that these drugs may work, at least in part, by changing the amount and timing of neurotransmitter release, including actions on membrane ion channels that control action potential threshold, duration and conduction velocity in axons, thus influencing the functional connectivity of brain networks. In basic research, we use in vitro brain slice preparations to investigate the effects of current medicines on ion channels and action potentials in brain neurons and axons, and to investigate potential new treatments for mood disorders. In translational research, we collaborate with clinical researchers to study the effects of current and prospective medicines on human brain networks, using EEG tomography in healthy volunteers and patients.

If you would like to know more about this work, and to talk about potential research projects, please contact Dr Phil Heyward.


Phil Heyward