Associate Professor Chris Dayas

Associate Professor Chris Dayas
Research Program:
Research Topics:
Project Grant
2018 Project Grant
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2017 Project Grant
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2016 Project Grant
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2015 Project Grant
Equipment Grant
2014 Equipment Grant
Travel Grant
2014 Travel Grant
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2014 Project Grant
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2013 Project Grant
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2012 Project Grant
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2007 Project Grant

What are your research interests?

My laboratory focuses on the brain pathways that are involved in motivated behaviours and stress. We study the basic wiring of circuits controlling the activity of specific cell types in the brain region called the hypothalamus and other nodes of the brain reward-seeking pathway. 

We arim to dissect the maladaptive rewiring that occurs in the brain that can manifest as addictions, obesity and mood disorders. Research projects in my group centre around two major themes:

  1. Understanding the hypothalamic circuit remodelling that occurs in response to physical, chemical or emotional challenges 
  2. Determining the cellular and molecular basis for why some individuals are more prone to pathologies of motivational state, such as addiction or stress, than others.

Why did you get into research?

I was initially motivated by highly engaging teachers at school and university. My primary motivation is to better understand how the brain is rewired by adverse experiences so that we can intervene and correct these deleterious changes.

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

I aim to establish a world class brain research centre in the Hunter, to make a major contribution to the understanding of brain pathways controlling pathological motivation states that leads to better treatments for neuropsychiatric diseases. 

We undertake basic ‘discovery’ research that aims to understand pathological altered brain function in the context of mental illness. We use cutting edge functional and genetic techniques to study how nerve cells communicate and how this communication can be corrupted by stress and addictive subtances. We work closely with other members of the Preclinical Neurobiology Group with whom we collaborating on many projects and share technical and intellectual expertise. Our ultimate vision is to harness these strengths and build a Hunter-based Research Centre – The Resilient Brain Initiative - with the goal of discovering the factors that underlie declining brain function and develop strategies to slow, stop, or reverse it.

Biography

Associate Professor Dayas' lab is interested in how physiological challenges, such as simulated infection, or psychological challenges, such as perceived/anticipatory threats excite brain cells above the pituitary gland to provoke stress hormone release. They aim to determine how chronic stress exposure can trigger the expression of pathological motivational states such as depression, anxiety and addictions.

During Associate Professor Dayas' post-doctoral work at the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA he gained expertise in animal models of reward seeking behaviour. This work identified a critical role for the orexin (hypocretin) neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (LH) in promoting rewarding seeking behaviour precipitated by alcohol-linked environmental cues.

Since returning to Australia in 2007/8, Associate Professor Dayas' lab has produced evidence that the paraventricular thalamus (PVT) is a key site through which hypothalamic peptide systems regulate reward seeking. These observations have triggered significant interest in the role of the PVT in motivated behaviour and how natural brain reward-seeking circuitry can be corrupted by chronic exposure to potent chemical rewards such as drugs of abuse e.g. cocaine or alcohol.

More recently Associate Professor Dayas has begun to address key questions in the field such as what are the underlying biological differences in the brains of individuals that are vulnerable to the development of addictions to those that are not. His lab is addressing these questions by combining behavioural experiments with cutting edge neuroscience techniques such as optogenetics, designer receptor exclusively activated by designer drug (DREADD), electrophysiology and NextGen sequencing. Associate Professor Dayas' lab works closely with Dr Brett Graham, Associate Professor Douglas Smith and A/Prof Murray Cairns’ laboratory at HMRI and the University of Newcastle. His lab also has strong international links with current projects involving collaborations with the University of Nagoya (Japan), Hotchkiss Brain Institute (Calgary, Canada) and Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA.

Specialised / Technical Skills

  • Behavioural models of addictive disorders, stress, anxiety and depression
  • Optogenetics
  • DREADD

Affiliations

2018

Addiction Imaging
Project Grant
Researchers:

Adrian Dunlop, Dr Amanda Brown, Dr Chris Dayas, A/Prof Peter Stanwell.

2017

Addiction Imaging
Project Grant
Researchers:

Adrian Dunlop, Dr Amanda Brown, Dr Chris Dayas, A/Prof Peter Stanwell.

2016

The Resilient Brain Initiative – Preclinical Neurobiology Group
Project Grant
Researchers:

Associate Professor Chris Dayas, Associate Professor Brett Graham

Description:

The Resilient Brain Initiative through HMRI and the University of Newcastle aims to identify new treatments to slow, stop or reverse declines in brain function caused by stress.

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2015

Neuroimaging extension study for Cannabis Dependent Patients in an RCT of Cannabinoid Replacement Therapy (Sativex®)
Project Grant
Researchers:

Conjoint Associate Professor Adrian Dunlop, Dr Amanda Brown, Dr Chris Dayas, Associate Professor Peter Stanwell.
 

2014

Modulation of emotion by gut signals to the brain
Project Grant
Jennie Thomas Medical Research Travel Award - The involvement of the lateral hypothalamic orexin system in motivational behaviours
Travel Grant
Researchers:

Ms Erin Campbell, Chris Dayas, Deborah Hodgson 

Optogenetics Neuronal Stimulation and Imaging Platform
Equipment Grant
Researchers:

Dr Christopher Dayas, Brett Graham 

2013

Identifying novel pharmacological targets for drug relapse
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Christopher Dayas, Brett Graham 

2012

PhD Student Pulse Travel Award 'Dopamine 2013'
Project Grant
Researchers:

 Morgan James, Chris Dayas
 

2007

Characterisation of the brain mechanisms linking vulnerability to stress and vulnerability to drug addiction
Project Grant
Researchers:

Dr Christopher Dayas, Professor Trevor Day, Dr Douglas Smith