Scientists probe origins of brain disorders

Many currently incurable diseases of the nervous system are likely to have their origin in problems which happen during the growth of the brain --but pinpointing where the defects occur is like finding a needle in a haystack, says a University of Edinburgh scientist. However, in his inaugural lecture today (Tuesday, 19 April), Professor David Price will explain that research during the past twenty years has given hope for better understanding of the origins of diseases like epilepsy, motor neurone disease and schizophrenia.

He says: "The human brain is staggeringly complex: 15 billion cells with about a thousand billion connections between them. Understanding how the development of such a complex structure is controlled might seem an impossible task, but research in the past twenty years has made us more optimistic.

"In the mid-1980s, research that built on the earlier discovery, in the 1950s, of the structure of DNA and the genetic code, revolutionised our understanding of how simple organisms, such as insects, develop. And then a truly remarkable discovery was made-- that the genes and genetic mechanisms which control development of even very simple organisms are retained in humans. This gives us hope that research on organisms with rudimentary brains will help us learn a lot about how our own brains develop."

David Price is Professor in Developmental Neurobiology and his research group at the University of Edinburgh is one of only two dozen in the world working to understand how genes control the growth of the brain.

Building Brains by Professor David Price, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005 in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, United Kingdom at 5.15pm. The lecture is open to the public.


Contact: Linda Menzies
University of Edinburgh

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