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Research Cores

Silvio O. Conte Center for Schizophrenia Research at Johns Hopkins

CORE A - Administration, Human Resources, and Data Analysis

PI: Akira Sawa, M.D., Ph.D.

This large Core is subdivided into sub-groups of administration, two distinct resources of human materials, and data analyses/database construction. For an efficient and central operation of the overall center, we integrate these distinct components together under the leadership of the center director.

This Core has three major aims:

  1. Administration and scientific leadership, including those in coordination with the advisory board and NIH, web page production, resource/data sharing plan, training plan, and public outreach.
  2. Two major human resources: genetic resources (led by Dr. Pulver) and tissue resources (led by Dr. Yolken), and their integration.
  3. Data processing and analyses for microarray, RNA sequencing, and genetic sequencing, as well as overall data analysis of multiple components (all projects and cores), and database construction/management (led by Drs. Pevsner and Leek).

CORE B - Behavior

PI: Michela Gallagher, Ph.D.

The Behavior Core provides services to all projects in the characterization of behavioral phenotypes/endophenotypes of mice under study as models for the molecular genetics of schizophrenia. This core will utilize the Neurogenetics and Behavior Center (NBC), a unique resource contributing to NIH supported research programs using mouse models and gene targeting technology to study basic functions of the brain and disorders relevant to psychiatric and neurological disease. As such, the behavioral studies in the facility are integral to bridging from genomic/molecular/cellular levels of analysis to the study of behavioral systems and functional disorders. In its past four years of operation, NBC has established and optimized over 80 protocols for behavioral assessments in three primary domains: cognitive functions, affective motivational processes, and sensorimotor integration.

Initial screening of mice in the research program overall are conducted in the phenotyping facilities at the Edward D. Miller Research Building where the mice are generated and housed. These protocols include basic battery for neurological assessment, activity assessments including tests in environments that yield generalized affective measures (e.g. plus maze), and a well-characterized assessment for sensorimotor gating (pre-pulse inhibition).

After the basic characterization of mice, they are transferred to NBC for further behavioral assessment. Thus we focus on specific behavioral protocols to assess limbic and cortical (particularly prefrontal) circuits. A cross-cutting behavioral platform to identify endophenotypes in these mouse models will include context and trace conditioning (hippocampal system), latent inhibition (hippocampal and forebrain dopamine systems), reversal learning and reinforcer devaluation (prefrontal function) and working memory/recognition memory assessments (temporal lobe and prefrontal circuits).

A particular advantage of testing in the Core resource is not only to serve the specific objectives of the individual projects within this research program but to acquire datasets using common behavioral protocols across models of neuropsychiatric disease.