Renee Morris

Senior Lecturer

Research Interests:
Gene Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury.  After an injury, the adult spinal cord fails to regenerate and damage at cervical levels are particularly devastating as they may result in quadriplegia. One aspect of my research is to use adenoviral vectors carrying the gene sequence for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) to up-regulate levels of BDNF into spinal cord motor neurons.We have developed a rat model of rubrospinal tract (RST) transection. While retaining the ability to reach, these rats are no longer capable to rotate the paw during the grasping action, a motor sequence called the arpeggio movement. The loss of arpeggio movement in our rat model is a unique behavioural read-out that we aim to reverse by BDNF gene therapy.

The neural basis of skilled reaching.  Rats are trained to reach for sugar pellets, a paradigm called "Skilled Reaching". Reaching is  filmed when performance has reached an asymptote and the rats are then subjected to selective lesions along  the motor pathways. After recovery from the surgical procedure, the rats are  tested and filmed again. Performance before and after the surgery is compared using a frame-by-frame analysis of the movies to see the effects of such lesions to their reaching performance.

Muscle-motor neuron topography.  My team is also currently investigating the relationship between the muscles of the hind- and forelimb and the spinal cord motor neuron columns that innervate them in rats and mice using retrograde neuronal tracers.

Nerve excitability.  We have recently developed a new research project that focuses on the changes in excitability that occur over time after small spinal cord injury. Changes in nerve excitability in RST rats are measured with threshold tracking techniques. These techniques provide information on axonal biophysical properties, specifically regarding the behaviour of various ion channels, pumps and exchangers that are involved in impulse conduction. The aim of this project is also to measure the benefits of BDNF gene therapy on axon conductance after an injury.

The fate of motor neurons below a spinal cord injury.  Whether motor neurons die after a spinal cord injury is still a matter of debate. Furthermore, the process by which spinal cord motor neurons could die, i.e. whether they go down the apoptotic or the necrotic pathway, or perhaps both, is undefined. The aim of this project is to explore the possibility that RST lesions trigger apoptotic or necrotic motor neuron death and to measure the benefits of AdBDNF gene therapy on the viability of these motor neurons.

Changes in mRNA levels of BDNF and TrkB receptor after RST transection. Are endogenous levels of BDNF and TrkB (the receptor for BDNF) down-regulated by a RST transection? Can we restore levels of BDNF and TrkB mRNA? After a RST transection, motor neurons are collected with a laser capture microdissection (LMD) system and mRNA for BDNF is isolated with state-of-the-art techniques.

Broad Research Areas:
Neuroscience, Neurotrauma, Disease Modelling

Qualifications:
BSc (Psych), MSc (Neuropsych), PhD (Neuroscience)

Specific Research Keywords:
Spinal Cord Injury and Repair, Motor control, Gene therapy, Adenovirus, Neurotrophins, BDNF

publications

Journal articles
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Harrigan ME; Filous AR; Tosolini AP; Morris R; Schwab JM; Arnold WD, 2019, 'Assessing Rat Forelimb and Hindlimb Motor Unit Connectivity as Objective and Robust Biomarkers of Spinal Motor Neuron Function', Scientific Reports, vol. 9, pp. 16699, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-53235-w
2019
Wild BM; Morris R; Moldovan M; Krarup C; Krishnan AV; Arnold R, 2018, 'In vivo electrophysiological measurement of the rat ulnar nerve with axonal excitability testing', Journal of Visualized Experiments, vol. 2018, http://dx.doi.org/10.3791/56102
2018
Morris R; Mehta P, 2018, 'The isolation of pure populations of neurons by laser capture microdissection: Methods and application in neuroscience', Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 1723, pp. 223 - 233, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-7558-7_12
2018
Wild BM; Mohan R; Morris R, 2017, 'Rat motor neurons caudal to a rubrospinal tract (RST) transection remain viable', Neuroscience, vol. 364, pp. 157 - 163, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2017.09.013
2017
Arnold R; Moldovan M; Rosberg MR; Krishnan AV; Morris R; Krarup C, 2017, 'Nerve excitability in the rat forelimb: a technique to improve translational utility', Journal of Neuroscience Methods, vol. 275, pp. 19 - 24, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneumeth.2016.10.013
2017
Morris R; Whishaw IQ, 2016, 'A proposal for a rat model of spinal cord injury featuring the rubrospinal tract and its contributions to locomotion and skilled hand movement', Frontiers in Neuroscience, vol. 10, http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2016.00005
2016
Tosolini AP; Morris R, 2016, 'Viral-mediated gene therapy for spinal cord injury (SCI) from a translational neuroanatomical perspective', Neural Regeneration Research, vol. 11, pp. 743 - 744, http://dx.doi.org/10.4103/1673-5374.182698
2016
Mehta P; Premkumar B; Morris R, 2016, 'Production of high quality brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) RNA from isolated populations of rat spinal cord motor neurons obtained by Laser Capture Microdissection (LCM)', Neuroscience Letters, vol. 627, pp. 132 - 138, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2016.05.063
2016
Tosolini AP; Morris R, 2016, 'Targeting Motor End Plates for Delivery of Adenoviruses: An Approach to Maximize Uptake and Transduction of Spinal Cord Motor Neurons', Scientific Reports, vol. 6, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep33058
2016
Mohan R; Tosolini AP; Morris R, 2015, 'Segmental distribution of the motor neuron columns that supply the rat hindlimb: A muscle/motor neuron tract-tracing analysis targeting the motor end plates', Neuroscience, vol. 307, pp. 98 - 108, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.08.030
2015
Morris R; Whishaw IQ, 2015, 'Arm and hand movement: Current knowledge and future perspective', Frontiers in Neurology, vol. 6, http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2015.00019
2015
Morris R; Vallester KK; Newton SS; Kearsley AP; Whishaw IQ, 2015, 'The differential contributions of the parvocellular and the magnocellular subdivisions of the red nucleus to skilled reaching in the rat', Neuroscience, vol. 295, pp. 48 - 57, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.03.027
2015
Mohan R; Tosolini AP; Morris R, 2015, 'Intramuscular injections along the motor end plates: A minimally invasive approach to shuttle tracers directly into motor neurons', Journal of Visualized Experiments, vol. 2015, http://dx.doi.org/10.3791/52846
2015
Mohan R; Tosolini AP; Morris R, 2014, 'Targeting the motor end plates in the mouse hindlimb gives access to a greater number of spinal cord motor neurons: An approach to maximize retrograde transport', Neuroscience, vol. 274, pp. 318 - 330, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.05.045
2014
PInyon JL; Tadros SF; Froud KE ; Wong ACY; Tompson IT; Crawford EN ; Ko M; Morris R; Klugmann M; Housley GD, 2014, 'Close-field electroporation gene delivery using the cochlear implant electrode array enhances the bionic ear', Science Translational Medicine, vol. 6, pp. p. 233ra54, http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.3008177
2014
Tosolini AP; Mohan R; Morris R, 2013, 'Targeting the full length of the motor end plate regions in the mouse forelimb increases the uptake of Fluoro-Gold into corresponding spinal cord motor neurons', Frontiers in Neurology, vol. 4 MAY, http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2013.00058
2013
Tosolini A; Morris R, 2012, 'Spatial characterization of the motor neuron columns supplying the rat forelimb', Neuroscience, vol. 200, pp. 19 - 30, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.10.054
2012
Morris R; Tosolini A; Goldstein J; Whishaw I, 2011, 'Impaired apeggio movement in skilled reaching by rubrospinal tract lesions in the rat: a behavioural/anatomical fractionation', Journal of Neurotrauma, vol. 28, pp. 2439 - 2451, http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/neu.2010.1708
2011
Wu A; Lauschke J; Morris R; Waite PM, 2009, 'Characterization of rat forepaw function in two models of cervical dorsal root injury', Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, vol. 26, pp. 17 - 29, http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/neu.2008.0675
2009
Morris R, 2004, 'In vivo somatic delivery of plasmid DNA and retrograde transport to obtain cell-specific gene expression in the central nervous system', Journal of Neurochemistry, vol. 90, pp. 1445 - 1452, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-4159.2004.02612.x
2004
Pierce KD; Handford CA; Morris R; Vafa B; Morris JA; Healy PJ; Schofield PR, 2001, 'A nonsense mutation in the alpha1 subunit of the inhibitory glycine receptor associated with bovine myoclonus', Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, vol. 17, pp. 354 - 363, http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/mcne.2000.0934
2001
Morris RW; Paxinos G; Petravic M, 2000, 'Architectonic analysis of the human retrosplenial cortex', Journal of Comparative Neurology, vol. 421, pp. 14 - 28, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1096-9861(20000522)421:1<14::AID-CNE2>3.0.CO;2-S
2000
Morris R; Frey S; Kasambira T; Petrides M, 1999, 'Ibotenic acid lesions of the basolateral, but not the central, amygdala interfere with conditioned taste aversion: Evidence from a combined behavioral and anatomical tract-tracing investigation', Behavioral Neuroscience, vol. 113, pp. 291 - 302, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0735-7044.113.2.291
1999
Morris R; Petrides M; Pandya DN, 1999, 'Architecture and connections of retrosplenial area 30 in the rhesus monkey (macaca mulatta)', European Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 11, pp. 2506 - 2518, http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1460-9568.1999.00672.x
1999
Morris R; Pandya DN; Petrides M, 1999, 'Fiber system linking the mid-dorsolateral frontal cortex with the retrosplenial]presubicular region in the rhesus monkey', Journal of Comparative Neurology, vol. 407, pp. 183 - 192, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1096-9861(19990503)407:2<183::AID-CNE3>3.0.CO;2-N
1999
Lee U; Bastos AC; Alonso-Vanegas MA; Morris R; Olivier A, 1998, 'Topographic analysis of the gyral patterns of the central area', Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, vol. 70, pp. 38 - 51, http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000029597
1998
Frey S; Morris R; Petrides M, 1997, 'A neuroanatomical method to assess the integrity of fibers of passage following ibotenate-induced damage to the central nervous system', Neuroscience Research, vol. 28, pp. 285 - 288, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0168-0102(97)00048-5
1997
Paus T; Tomaiuolo F; Otaky N; MacDonald D; Petrides M; Atlas J; Morris R; Evans AC, 1996, 'Human cingulate and paracingulate sulci: Pattern, variability, asymmetry, and probabilistic map', Cerebral Cortex, vol. 6, pp. 207 - 214, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cercor/6.2.207
1996
Frey S; Morris R; Kasambira T; Petrides M, 1996, 'Conditioned taste aversion deficits produced by ibotenic acid lesions of the basolateral amygdala in the rat: A re-investigation', INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY, vol. 31, pp. 15465 - 15465, http://gateway.webofknowledge.com/gateway/Gateway.cgi?GWVersion=2&SrcApp=PARTNER_APP&SrcAuth=LinksAMR&KeyUT=WOS:A1996VE85700521&DestLinkType=FullRecord&DestApp=ALL_WOS&UsrCustomerID=891bb5ab6ba270e68a29b250adbe88d1
1996
Boire D; Morris R; Ptito M; Lepore F; Frost DO, 1995, 'Effects of neonatal splitting of the optic chiasm on the development of feline visual callosal connections', Experimental Brain Research, vol. 104, pp. 275 - 286, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00242013
1995
Morris R, 1995, 'Effects of neonatal section of the optic chiasm on the development of visual callosal connections.', Experimental Brain Research, vol. 104
1995
Book Chapters
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Morris R, 2014, 'Neurotoxicity and Neuroprotection in Spinal Cord Injury', in Kostrzewa R (ed.), Handbook of Neurotoxicity, Springer, pp. 1457 - 1482, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5836-4_135
2014
Petrides M; Paxinos G; Huang X-F; Morris R; Pandya D, 1999, 'Delineation of the monkey cortex on the basis of the distribution of a neurofilament protein', in The Rhesus Monkey Brain in Stereotaxic Coordinates, pp. 155
1999
Conference Papers
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Morris R; Gray A; Hort Y; Pierce KD; Schofield PR, 2005, 'A non-invasive adenoviral system for the delivery and expression of genes to spinal cord motor neurones', in Proceedings of Aust Neuroscience Society, 25th Annual Meeting of the Australian Neuroscience Society, Perth, WA, pp. 26 - 26, presented at 25th Annual Meeting of the Australian Neuroscience Society, Perth, WA, 30 January 2005 - 02 February 2005
2005
Morgan BS; Morris R; Callister RJ; Schofield PR, 2001, 'Molecular changes to glycine receptors by gene therapy and transgenic approaches for the study of synaptic neurotransmission', in JOURNAL OF NEUROCHEMISTRY, BLACKWELL SCIENCE LTD, pp. 174 - 174, http://gateway.webofknowledge.com/gateway/Gateway.cgi?GWVersion=2&SrcApp=PARTNER_APP&SrcAuth=LinksAMR&KeyUT=WOS:000170789800623&DestLinkType=FullRecord&DestApp=ALL_WOS&UsrCustomerID=891bb5ab6ba270e68a29b250adbe88d1
2001
Patents
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Kim Y; Bertrand P; Moorhouse A; Wong ACY; Craig A; Power J; Klugmann M; Krishnan A; Morris R, Methods for inhibiting neuron apoptosis and necrosis, Patent No. 2013286815