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SoCoBio (Universities of Southampton, Kent, Sussex, Portsmouth and NIAB EMR)

Mapping neural modulation by parasites and neuroendocrine disrupters in invertebrates

Prof Alex Ford (University of Portsmouth)

Professor Lindy Holden-Dye (University of Southampton)

Dr Matt Parker (University of Portsmouth)

Project Summary:

The pharmaceutical industry is valued at over $1 trillion annually. Pharmaceuticals are biologically active and persistent substances that have been recognised as being a continuing threat to the stability of many aquatic environments. Currently the ability to determine neuroendocrine disruption in the wildlife has been hindered by lack of appropriate neurological biomarkers. Humans and laboratory mammalian models exposed to long-term antidepressants have displayed increased neurological dysfunction thus it is conceivable that wildlife exposed to long-term neurological disrupting chemicals may issue display neural function and architecture. Fortunately, and unlike other biological systems (e.g. reproduction), the nervous systems of animals (invertebrates and vertebrates) are relatively conserved meaning that advanced techniques employed in the biomedical sciences are more easily transferred to non-model organisms. There is a strong and well-established set of behavioural assays within neuropharmacology for mammalian, fish and nematode models which have the potential for crossover into aquatic ecotoxicology.

This study will map the neural activity within the ‘brain’ and ventral nerve cords of two invertebrates models (Echinogammarus marinus & Gammarus pulex) using immunohistochemistry. The neural activity and cognitive abilities would be tested in crustaceans exposed to monamines (serotonin) and neuroactive drugs (fluoxetine) as well as behavioural altering parasites (trematodes and acanthocephalans). The project will utilise state of the art software and high-throughput automated video analyses to develop tools and measure aberrant behaviour plus advanced neuroimaging techniques identify impacted neurobiology. This project would be supervised by an invertebrate ecotoxicologist (Prof Alex Ford: Portsmouth), an invertebrate neurobiologist (Professor Lindy Holden-Dye: Southampton) a behavioural pharmacologist and behavioural neuroscientist (Dr Matt Parker: Portsmouth).