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Preclinical Core

Director: Sheryl S. Moy, Ph.D.
Co-Director: Spencer L. Smith, Ph.D.

The Preclinical Core provides IDDRC investigators with multiple approaches for research in animal models, with an overall goal of linking abnormal behavioral phenotypes to changes in brain structure, regional connectivity, cellular function and molecular processes. The Core has three components: the Mouse Behavioral Phenotyping Laboratory, the Confocal and Multiphoton Imaging Facility, and the Brain Imaging Analysis Service. By spanning multiple aspects of mouse model evaluation and use, these components provide a basis for integrative, translational neuroscience within the UNC IDDRC.

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The Mouse Behavioral Phenotyping Laboratory provides testing services, training, and access to an extensive set of automated measurement systems and other equipment for behavioral evaluation. Procedures have been selected to provide an optimal screen for detecting differences across a wide range of functioning – motoric, sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social. The Laboratory typically uses a global assessment approach to determine phenotypic profiles of both behavioral deficits and sparing, which can then be compared to clinical profiles of human disorders. In particular, the Laboratory has standardized specific batteries for the identification of social deficits, repetitive behavior, and other abnormal phenotypes related to developmental disabilities, and for the utilization of behavioral mouse models as preclinical screens for drug discovery initiatives. Laboratory personnel also have extensive expertise in methodology for preclinical drug studies, including initial tests for appropriate dosing and side-effects and the use of implanted minipumps or pellets for chronic drug regimens.

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Image from Eva Anton, IDDRC investigator

The Neuroscience Microscopy Facility supports studies on cellular and molecular mechanisms in neurodevelopment, utilizing labeled neural tissue, brain slices, and intact or living embryonic or adult brains. The Microscopy Facility provides a full spectrum of advanced systems for cellular and molecular imaging of in vitro and in vivo samples. In addition to providing access to high resolution imaging technologies, the Microscopy Facility also implements new imaging technologies, particularly related to real time and tissue clearing based imaging of neurodevelopment and neural functions, and provides training, consultation, data analysis, image processing, and centralized technical expertise to support the imaging needs of neuroscientists and IDD researchers.

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The Small Animal Brain Imaging and Analysis Service, led by Dr. Yen-Yu Ian Shih, provides advanced methods for fMRI and other brain imaging procedures in rodent models, as unique translational approaches to bridge animal and human imaging studies. The techniques offered in the facility include MRI/DTI, resting state fMRI, and proton MR spectroscopy. More recently, Dr. Shih has used the integration of optogenetic approaches and fMRI in mice for brain-wide screening of circuit dynamic changes in response to genetically defined cellular activation.

For more information on this service, please contact Dr. Shih, Director of the UNC Small Animal Imaging Facility.

Yen-Yu Ian Shih, Ph.D.
Phone: (919) 843-4729
Email: shihy@unc.edu

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