Dr. Foster’s research aims to understand how the body influences brain function and in particular, focuses on the influence of immune-brain communications on CNS development and function.
Molecules originally thought to be unique to the immune system are present and functional in the brain. What is exciting in the field of neuroimmune research is the recent work suggesting that immune molecules in the CNS are, in fact, important to neuronal function including aspects of neuronal development, neuronal excitability, and neurotransmission. My lab is interested in immune molecules that are expressed in neurons and their role in normal brain function including neuroplasticity, in the impact of early life immune activation on CNS development, and the role of the adaptive immune system in CNS development. Our studies will help us understand the role that neuroimmune processes might play in the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders.
In humans, exposure to environmental and other challenges in utero are linked to increased vulnerability to psychiatric illnesses. In mice, we have identified alterations in behaviour following exposure to the anti-convulsant drug, valproic acid, following immune challenge, and following smoke exposure. The nature of deficit observed in the offspring varies with the nature of the challenge. Our experiments aim to identify the molecules and mechanisms involved.
In collaboration with our clinical colleagues, we are interesting in translating these findings to the depressed patient population (MDD). One of the leading approaches to understanding the pathophysiology of MDD is the use of molecular genetics to examine the role of genetic variation. We propose to use this approach, in combination with standard neuropsychological and experimental assessments of memory as well as structural neuroimaging, to assess the role of genetic variation in patient populations and in healthy volunteers.
Kolozsi, E., R.N. MacKenzie, F.I. Roullet, D. deCatanzaro, and J.A. Foster. 2009. Reduced expression of synaptic adhesion molecule neuroligin 3 in an animal model of autism. Neuroscience. 163(4):1201-10. Epub 2009 Jul 14.
Neufeld, K.A. and J.A. Foster. 2009. Effects of gut microbiota on the brain: Implications for psychiatry. J. Psych. Neuro. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 34(3);230-1.
Foster, J.A. and G. MacQueen. 2008. Neurobiology of personality and depression. Invited review. Can. J. Psych. 53(1):6-13.
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