"Major depression is a potentially life-threatening illness affecting 10-15% of the population and causing an enormous economic burden (Euros 120 billions/year in Europe), also due to incomplete efficacy of antidepressants. The most relevant cause of this is the poor knowledge of the neural basis for mood regulation that has to be attributed, among other factors, to the limited information gathered from animal models. The main aim of the present project is setting up an innovative strategy for comprehensive, detailed phenotyping of mouse models of depression. Experimental protocols for investigating behavioural responses involved in the depression phenotype, such as “pessimistic” bias and an altered social behaviour, will be developed in an automated apparatus. These protocols will be used in combination with already validated protocols (e.g. anhedonia, sleep/wake cycle) to obtain a comprehensive, automated and high-throughput phenotyping strategy to assess depression-like behaviour in mice and to screen antidepressant action. Translation research resulting into clinical application for brain research is a central priority in Europe in the context of psychiatric disorders. The high throughput screening combined with strong hypothesis on the evolutionary basis of the behaviours to be modelled can have important consequences on the health, societal and economic burden imposed by major depression, leading to improved drug development. Being able to work in an environment where industry and academia collaborate strongly, such as the host environment, will allow the candidate to better exploit new knowledge for its technological transfer into SME products and will lead to a close cooperation with leading scientists and engineers. Ultimately the opportunity given by this fellowship will endow him with the necessary skills to develop his own research team and to advance the field on innovative animal models for the study of mood disorders."
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