Our research facilities, primarily situated in the Department of Psychology (Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience) at the University of Western Ontario are extensive. They include a panel of both established and novel assays to rapidly and extensively quantify many aspects of both animal and human behaviour. Studies are designed with an emphasis of gathering behavioural, pharmacological, electrophysiologic, neuroanatomical and biochemical data all from the same test animal.
Behavioural Neuroscience and Other Laboratories:
Ethovision: Ethovision is a novel image and data acquisition software which allows detailed analysis of many aspects of autism associated behaviour (hyperactivity, repetitive behaviours, object fixation, social interaction) in solitary or group test animals in large open arenas for long time periods (up to 24 hrs). These can be analyzed with concurrent real time video analysis for quantification of autism related behaviour.
Ethovision Tracks Autism Model Repetitive and Impaired Social Behaviour
Versamax Animal Acitivity Monitoring System: This system allows for rapid analysis and quantification of many aspects of animal behaviour. Movement is analyzed through the test animal’s interruption of a matrix of light beams.
Computerized Morris Water Maze: Various memory processes may be altered, or paradoxically improved, in autism spectrum disorders. Our water maze assays allows accurate quantification of spatial memory, problem solving strategies and perseveration.
Taste Aversion Bioassays: Autism is often associated with obsessive compulsive behaviour, rigid preoccupation to particular food types, and dietary worsening of symptoms. We have long experience in bioassays which quantify food related behaviours in rodent models.
Electrophysiological/ CNS microinjection Techniques: Facilities are available for direct CNS micro- injection of various bioactive compounds in anaesthetized or awake behaving animals. Electrophysiologic facilities include 4 shielded rooms for behavioural EEG and evoked potential analysis, allowing studies often interfacing with the above behavioural assays. This allows electrical analysis of seizure and movement disorder, which often co exists with autism spectrum disorders.
Surgical Suite: Our Group has a state of the art animal neurosurgical unit, which allows stereotactic chronic placement of EEG electrodes, drug injection cannulae, and biochemical sensors to examine brain regions implicated in autism.
Immunopathology Laboratory: Recent studies from autopsy tissue donated from persons with autism have shown consistent alterations in brain development and findings suggestive of chronic neuroinflammation. Our pathological facilities include extensive cryostat and microtome facilities for the analysis of unfixed, fixed or paraffin embedded tissues, including “antigen retrieval’. Included in this is our permanent “autism model tissue library” which allows post-hoc analyses of brain tissue from our behavioural studies within our group and our collaborators. Our site contains neuropharmacological and neuropathological facilities to examine neurodevelopment and neurotoxicity through immuno and in situ techniques including BRDU cell lineage tracing. Micrographic quantification is facilitated by our Carsen Group Image Pro Analysis system.
Biochemistry: Through collaboration with the University of Western Ontario's Department of Biochemistry, facilities are available for biochemical analysis of brain tissue including metabolic and synaptosomal assays, gene arrays, lipid analysis and inflammatory and oxidative stress factors.
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