Epigenetic Research

‘Epigenetic Mechanisms of Maternal Immune Activation’

Monash University, VIC
Awarded 2016

Co-funded by Margaret and Rodney Orr

“Results from this research will further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying schizophrenia and has the potential to improve current and emerging treatments. ”

Researcher Profile

Jay Nakamura graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Hons), majoring in neuroscience, from the University of Melbourne in 2015. His honours year research project investigated the behavioural and electrophysiological outcomes in an animal model of schizophrenia following estrogenic treatment.

Experiencing many aspects of biomedical research during this year solidified his goal to become a research scientist, particularly in the field of mental health.

Project Summary

Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that affects the sufferer’s perception of reality, motivation and cognitive ability. The cause of the disease is not yet known but there is evidence to suggest that both genetic and environmental factors are involved.  Here, epigenetics, the influence of environmental factors upon genes, has been heavily implicated in schizophrenia.

A very strong association can be seen between infection in mothers during pregnancy and an increased likelihood of schizophrenia in the children of those mothers. How maternal infection increases risk of schizophrenia is unknown and this project aims to investigate this in an animal model that closely replicates this effect. In particular, the ability of infection to cause epigenetic changes will be investigated. Possible treatments to prevent these changes will also be tested.

 Supervisors: Dr Rachel Hill, Professor Suresh Sundram and Dr Xin Du