< Back to previous page


Melanopsin mediated photoreception: A common regulator of both seasonal neuroplasticity and cerebral vasculature function.

Light is one of the most important environmental factors driving many important functions in animal physiology including reproduction and neuroplasticity. It has also been shown to regulate vasculature development, its arrangement and function. In this context, Melanopsin, an opsin molecule found in ganglionic cell layer of retina (in mammals) has been shown to regulate the NON IMAGE FORMING (NIF) circuit in mammalian brain, mediating the effect of light on many physiologies including sleep, cognition and mood. Recently, melanopsin have been found in blood vessels of aorta influencing the light mediated vasodilation and also have been shown to regulate the formation of retinal blood vasculature. Light (or photoperiod) is known to influence neuroplasticity regulating it seasonally in seasonal birds (specially the song control system). Our own findings show that melanopsin is present in starling brain regions which displays seasonal neuroplasticity, which also corresponds to the mammalian like NIF network. Interestingly, we recently found melanopsin in the blood vessel linings in avian (European starlings) telencephalon. Thus, we hypothesized that melanopsin may be the common regulator of seasonal vasculature function (including both angiogenesis and blood flow). In this proposal, we will use ex vivo molecular techniques to map the expression of melanopsin in a seasonal avian model, the European starlings. We will also develop in vivo imaging methods (MRI) to map and track vasculature function in a seasonal context. As neuroplasticity and vasculature development have a causal relationship with both influenced by light, a common regulator will have evolutionary significance. Knowledge of seasonal cycle of neuroplasticity/vasculature will also help to understand mechanisms that could promote brain repair in pathological conditions such as brain trauma or neurodegenerative diseases.
Date:1 Apr 2018  →  31 Mar 2019
Disciplines:Animal biology, Systems biology, Neurosciences, Physiology, Veterinary medicine, Biological and physiological psychology, Cognitive science and intelligent systems, Developmental psychology and ageing