Mental disorders are associated with abnormal sensory information processing (SIP) at preadolescence, especially in males. Aberrant SIP is a neutral cross-disorder trait that can be translated between humans and animals and assessed as the inability to prevent/gate an overload of irrelevant information. The mechanisms underlying physiological and pathological SIP variability are unexplored. Particularly, the causative role of hyperdopaminergia, key to SIP deficits, has never been tested by isolating, spatially and temporally, this single neural component. How does this trait evolve into a mental disorder? Why does it occur more often in males?
REDIRECT will capitalize on our rodent model of prenatal cannabis exposure (PCE), which is the first of its kind to offer, at preadolescence, a sex bias in susceptibility to SIP deficits upon acute exposure to stress or cannabis. This animal model is amenable to molecular interrogation to probe causality for those resilience-promoting factors preventing females from developing a hyperdopaminergia and SIP deficits.
By combining viral strategies to trace and probe cell-type specific input-output reorganization of dopamine circuits (Aim 1), with single-cell transcriptome analyses (Aim 2), REDIRECT will decipher how female sex imposes distinct molecular changes to neurons and circuits, which are key to prevent the etiopathogenesis of SIP disorders. By testing selected candidate genes to probe causality for how sex modulates genes, developmental trajectories, and behaviour, we will decode (Aim 3) how discrete dopaminergic circuits can be reprogrammed sex-dependently.
REDIRECT will causally disentangle how sex differently affects genes, circuits, and behaviour to inform novel sex-specific and age-tailored therapies for SIP deficits, a cross-disorder trait typical of common and severe mental illnesses, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.

Total budget: €1.999.138
Total contribution: €1.999.138

REDIRECT aims to achieve an unprecedented analysis of dopamine role in healthy and diseased sensory information processing (SIP) by leveraging our PCE model, which offers a sex bias in susceptibility to SIP. PCE acts as a first hit on neurodevelopmental trajectories, and exposed females and males represent resilient and vulnerable individuals, respectively.

Miriam Melis, PhD- PI
Valeria Serra, PhD
Sonia Aroni, PhD
Roberta Leone, PhD
Roberto Frau, PhD
Luca Concas
Giorgia Fanunza

REDIRECT team: from the left, Giorgia, Miriam, Roberto, Sonia, Valeria, Luca.