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Cells & behaviour

Experimental neuroimaging & mental health

Vernon-LabAnthony Vernon

Psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disability are thought to arise from a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors that perturb the normative trajectory of brain development and maturation leading to pathological alterations in brain structure and function. In particular, the formation and expansion of myelinated white matter may be disrupted, leading to aberrant neural messaging and “disconnectivity”. In addition, pregnant women and adolescents take both therapeutic and illicit drugs that also impact on the development of neural circuitry and may confer increased risk for psychiatric illness in adulthood.

Our interest therefore is to investigate how these factors, alone and in combination affect normative brain development, particularly cortical thickness and white matter and map these MR-detectable mesoscale brain changes to microscopic changes at the neurochemical, biochemical and cellular level in the rodent brain. This will provide important insights into the mechanisms underlying these devastating disorders opening up new avenues for potential therapeutic intervention. To achieve this, we utilise a powerful, translational, systems-level approach combining rodent models, advanced small-animal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods, behavioural assessment and post-mortem analysis. We collaborate closely with colleagues in the Department of Neuroimaging at the IoP and externally with colleagues at the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and the University of Toronto.

Selected recent publications

Hajek T and Vernon A.C. Effects of lithium on MRI signal may not preclude increases in brain volume following chronic lithium treatment. Biol. Psych. 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.12.028

Crum WR, Modo M, Vernon A.C, Barker GJ, Williams SC. Registration of Challenging Pre-clinical Brain Images. J Neurosci Methods. 2013 Apr 1. doi:pii: S0165-0270(13)00120-9. 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2013.03.015.

Mondelli V, Anacker C, Vernon A.C, Cattaneo A, Natesan S, Modo M, Dazzan P, Kapur S, Pariante CM. Haloperidol and olanzapine mediate metabolic abnormalities through different molecular pathways. Transl Psychiatry. 2013; 3:e208. doi: 10.1038/tp.2012.138.

Vernon A.C., Natesan S., Crum W.R., Cooper J.C., Modo M., Williams S.C.R., Kapur S. Reply: Lithium and the expanding brain. Biol. Psychiatry. 2012; 72(7): e19.

Vernon A.C., Natesan S., Crum W.R., Cooper J.C., Modo M., Williams S.C.R., Kapur S. Contrasting effects of chronic haloperidol and lithium treatment on rodent brain structure: an MRI study with post-mortem confirmation. Biol. Psychiatry 2012; 71(10): 855-863.

Vernon A.C.†, and Modo M. Do levodopa treatments modify the morphology of the parkinsonian brain? Movement Disorders, 2012; 27: 166–167.

Vernon A.C.†, Smith E.J., Stevanato L., Modo M. Selective activation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 7 induces inhibition of cellular proliferation and promotes astrocyte differentiation of ventral mesencephalon human neural stem/progenitor cells. Neurochem Int. 2011; 59(3): 421-31.

Vernon A.C., Crum W.R., Johansson S., Modo M. Evolution of extra-nigral damage predicts behavioural deficits in a rat proteasome inhibitor model of Parkinson’s disease*. PLoS One. 2011 Feb 25; 6(2): e17269. *Michael J Fox Foundation PD online: Paper of the week, 7th March 2011

Vernon A.C., Natesan S.N., Modo M., Kapur S. Effect of chronic antipsychotics on brain structure: a serial MRI study with ex vivo and post-mortem confirmation. Biol. Psychiatry. 2011; 69(10): 936-44.

Vernon A.C and Modo M. Non-invasive MR imaging of neurodegeneration in a rodent model of Parkinson’s disease. Methods Mol Biol. 2011; 711: 487-510.

Vernon A.C., Ballard C. and Modo M. Neuroimaging for Lewy body disease: Is the in vivo molecular imaging of -synuclein neuropathology required and feasible? Brain Research Reviews, 2010; 65:28-55.

Vernon A.C., Johansson S., Modo M. Non-invasive evaluation of nigrostriatal neuropathology in a proteasome inhibitor rodent model of Parkinson’s disease. BMC Neuroscience 2010, 11(1): 1.

Vernon A.C†. Mice with reduced vesicular monoamine storage content display nonmotor features of Parkinson's disease. J Neuroscience, 2009; 29(41): 12842-4. 




Myelin water fraction map of the adult rat brain at 7T (collaboration with Dr Tobias Wood, Dept. Neuroimaging, KCL)




Cortical thickness map of the adult rat brain derived from MRI images (collaboration with with Dr Jason Lerch, University of Toronto)

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