Neural circuitry of cognitive disorders

Uploaded by uofubraininstitute on 27.02.2012

My group, for the last 40 years,
has been interested in solving
complex human problems, and the problems
that I have felt are the most important
are really problems that have to do with human behavior.
And with respect to the brain, our major interests
are really in approaching some of the toughest problems
that affect our society, both as a society and as individuals,
which are mental illness, anxiety,
hopefully some new insights into autism,
and both pro and anti-social behavior.
We all know that Down's syndrome is due very simply
to an extra chromosome, so instead of 46 chromosomes,
they have 47 chromosomes.
So there we are.
Somewhere over 200 genes, but that's still 200 genes,
so how do we narrow down to know what the genes are,
and Heavens-to-Betsy, how are we going to know
how they were linked to the development of the brain?
So what I have done in my group, and developed the techniques
to do this molecularly, is to, sort of,
pull apart chromosome 21 and to begin to assign small subsets,
slices of the chromosome to particular problems whether
it's being small of stature, whether it's having problems
with being able to visualize things, or to read,
or to have behavioral problems, or speech problems
which are a major problem.
And one of the things that really pulls on
your heartstrings, but it should pull on your heartstrings,
is that we have a pair of identical twins,
one of whom has Down's syndrome, and one of whom doesn't.
The family is spectacular.
The kids--they're boys--are spectacular.
And from the comparisons, the detailed comparisons
of their genes, the expression, and their brain structure,
a whole new world is opening up to us.
So we study them, not only their brain and their MRIs,
we study them at their cellular levels,
and when we understand their cellular pathways,
the specificity of that, bingo.
We can focus in on what's wrong and how we might fix it.
The University of Utah is one of the most wonderful places I have
had the privilege to be a scientist. Why?
Because we have one of the most collaborative faculties,
not only at the University of Utah,
but at the State, at BYU.
It has been a wonderful experience to collaborate.
When I set up a new program, the response I get is,
"Wow! That's interesting.
Hmmm, maybe we could do astrocytes."
That's exactly what we need in solving human disease today.
We need people who enjoy being together
to solve very tough problems.
We need a village, a university,
to understand these problems and to go forward.
That is the future.