Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Brain2Bee (How dopamine affects social and motor ability - from the human brain to the honey bee)
Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-06-30
Brain2Bee will use psychopharmacology in typical individuals to develop a model of the relationship between Dopamine (DA), Motor, and Social behaviour – the DAMS model. Brain2Bee will use sophisticated genetic analysis to refine DAMS, elucidating the contributions of dopamine-related biological processes (e.g. synthesis, receptor expression, reuptake). Brain2Bee will then test DAMS’ predictions in patients with Parkinson’s Disease and Autism. Finally, Brain2Bee will investigate whether DAMS generalises to an animal model, the honey bee, enabling future research to unpack the cascade of biological events linking DOPAMINE-related genes with social and motor behaviour.
Brain2Bee will unite disparate research fields and establish the DAMS model. The causal structure of DAMS will identify the impact of dopaminergic variation on social and motor function in clinical and non- clinical populations, elucidating, for example, whether social difficulties in Parkinson’s Disease are a product of the motor difficulties caused by dopamine dysfunction. DAMS’ biological specificity will provide unique insight into the dopamine-related processes linking social and motor difficulties in Autism. Thus, Brain2Bee will determine the type of dopaminergic drugs (e.g. receptor blockers, reuptake inhibitors) most likely to improve both social and motor function.
After developing the task battery, we used it to unpack the role of dopamine in social and motor function (EXPT 1). To achieve this, we asked participants to complete the task battery once after they have taken a dopamine blocker (Haloperidol) and once after placebo (the order of Haloperidol and placebo was counterbalanced between people). We found that manipulating dopamine affected both social and motor function. For example, we saw that participants moved more slowly and in a less jerky fashion when they had taken haloperidol (Sowden et al., in prep; https://youtu.be/6vcYiW_8B6U) and we also observed effects on participants’ ability to estimate others’ mental states and infer others’ emotions (Schuster et al., in prep; https://youtu.be/t9vuihmsl6o). However, effects on motor and social function were largely independent of each other. These results raise the hypothesis that dopamine degradation in conditions like Parkinson’s disease has separable effects on social and motor ability. In other words, differences in social behaviour in Parkinson’s disease may be unrelated to differences in body movement. We are currently setting up studies specifically designed to test this hypothesis.