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The miswired brain – from altered neurodevelopment to psychopathology

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It has long been postulated that many psychiatric conditions have their origins in disturbed neural development. This view is strongly supported by recent discoveries of mutations causing psychiatric illness, many of which arise in neurodevelopmental genes. Psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism can no longer be viewed as monolithic categories; instead, they represent umbrella terms that refer to possible outcomes due to mutation in any one of probably hundreds of different genes, which are individually rare, but collectively common. A major unanswered question is how disturbances in neurodevelopmental processes such as neuronal migration, axon guidance and specification of synaptic connectivity can result in the pathophysiological states that underlie psychiatric symptoms. We are investigating these questions in several lines of mutant mice, which display symptoms relevant to psychiatric disease.

Kevin Mitchell is an Associate Professor in the Smurfit Institute of Genetics in Trinity College Dublin and a member of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience. His interests are in understanding the genetic program specifying the wiring of the brain and its relevance to variation in human faculties, especially to psychiatric and neurological disease. He is particularly interested in schizophrenia, autism and synaesthesia.

He is a graduate of the Genetics Department, Trinity College Dublin (B.A., Mod. 1991) and received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley (1997), where he studied nervous system development with Prof. Corey Goodman. He did postdoctoral research with Prof. Marc Tessier-Lavigne at Stanford University, using molecular genetics to study neural development in the mouse. Since 2002 he has been on the faculty at Trinity College Dublin as a Science Foundation Ireland Investigator. He was an EMBO Young Investigator and was elected to Fellowship of Trinity College in 2009.

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