Neural Dynamics Laboratory

Research Overview

Our group studies neural systems in action “neural dynamics”– from pathological states of hyperexcitability to how memories are encoded. As a clinically based group, we are also keenly interested in how drugs modulate the brain’s activity, for example, how antiepileptic and antipsychotic drugs work. We also seek to understand how drugs “go bad” to disrupt normal function, like inducing seizures.

Our techniques range from fine grained molecular dynamical modelling of atomic interactions of drugs with ion channels with supercomputers through to studying brain wave patterns in alert animals. Our main technique is electrophysiology, especially “patch-clamping”. With these methods, we can record in real-time from single cells either isolated or in a functioning neural network, in vivo or in vitro, and similarly test drug responses. Additionally, we try to interface our electrophysiological data with computer models using the “Neuron” simulator or Matlab. We are currently enhancing our electrophysiological techniques with “neuro-optical” methods such as the “miniscope” that allows visualisation of hundreds of active cells in freely moving animals over months, and have recently commenced recording from human brain cells derived from human neurosurgical operations.

Recently we have started studying how brain tumours affect brain function, especially the induction of often debilitating seizures. We have developed an in vitro brain tumour model that allows us to observe the invasion of normal brain tissue by tumour cells, as well as the development of epileptic activity.

Staff

  • Dr Chris French, Group Leader

Collaborators

  • Professor Toby Allen RMIT (Molecular Dynamics)
  • Dr Lucy Palmer (Florey), Prof Greg Stuart, Dr Gui Silva (ANU), A/Prof Andrew Morokoff A/Prof Kate Drummond (RMH Neurosurgery) – Human brain electrophysiology
  • Dr Rod Luwor In vitro brain tumour model
  • Dr Ranjith Unnithan – UOM Electrical and Electronic Engineering – Neuro-optical brain recording
  • Prof Trichur Vidyasagar  UOM Visual Neuroscience – In vivo epilepsy recording and neuro-optical imaging
  • Prof Francisco Bezanill, Bezanilla Laboratory, University of Chicago – Neuro-optical recording, voltage-gated ion channel studies

Funding

  • Australian Brain Foundation
  • RMH Neuroscience
  • RMH Grant in Aid
  • RACP
  • UCB

Research Publications

  • Taing, K. D., O’Brien, T. J., Williams, D. A., & French, C. R. (2017). Anti-Epileptic Drug Combination Efficacy in an In Vitro Seizure Model – Phenytoin and Valproate, Lamotrigine and Valproate. PLOS One, 12(1), 2017
  • Zeng, Z., Hill-Yardin, E. L., Williams, D. A., O’Brien, T. J., Serelis, A., & French, C. R. (2016). The Effect of Phenytoin on Sodium Conductances in Rat Hippocampal CA1 Pyramidal Neurons. J Neurophysiol. 2016 116(4):1924-1936
  • French C,  Zeng Z, Williams DDA, , Hill-Yardin EL,, O'Brien TJ J. Properties of an Intermediate-duration Inactivation Process of the Voltage-gated Sodium Conductance in Rat Hippocampal CA1 Neurons. J Neurophysiol 115:790-802
  • Boiteux, C., Vorobyov, I., French, R. J., French, C., Yarov-yarovoy, V., Allen, T(2014). Local anesthetic and antiepileptic drug access and binding to a bacterial voltage-gated sodium channel. PNAS, 111(36), 13057–3062