Neuro­ge­n­om­ics Labor­at­ory - Iiris Hov­atta

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders within the EU and cause considerable disability due to high prevalence (14 %), early onset and chronic nature. The major questions in anxiety disorders are which molecular and cellular events lead to and maintain pathological anxiety, and how this pathology can be normalized. We employ a multidisciplinary approach to understand the genetic and neurobiological basis of normal and pathological anxiety. We are especially interested in how the genetic background affects behavior. To this end, we have preclinical models to investigate both innate and psychosocial stress-induced anxiety. We carry out unbiased genome-wide transcriptomic analyses using RNA and microRNA sequencing to identify biological pathways and gene networks that regulate anxiety. Based on these data, we form specific hypotheses that we test using genetic and pharmacological tools, combined with behavioral analysis, to determine the molecular and cellular basis of anxiety. We have recently shown that brain myelin plasticity is a major cellular response to chronic psychosocial stress (Laine et al. eNeuro 2018), and are now investigating the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms. For this purpose, we are setting up methods to investigate the transcriptomes of specific brain cell types, such as oligodendrocytes, and transcriptomes of single cells of specific brain nuclei. Importantly, we further study the homologous human genes as candidate genes for human anxiety disorders. The goal of our research is to facilitate development of targeted treatment of anxiety disorders by revealing the underlying biological mechanisms.

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Contact:

Iiris Hovatta
Professor, Associate Research Director
P.O. Box 63, FI-00014 University of Helsinki
Phone: +358 50 4484509
Email: iiris.hovatta@helsinki