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A Review Of Computer Models In Neuroscience Research

This project is again focusing on neuroscience – an area of biomedical research where we know some human conditions are not naturally occurring in animals, and therefore promising research findings are often not translating into progress in the understanding of human diseases or progression in treatments. The continued popularity of animal-based research in some of these areas raises both ethical and scientific concerns. Will agrees and says it inspired him to develop the idea for his summer project: “Since starting my placement year, I have gained a better appreciation for the vast use of animals in scientific research, especially within behavioural neuroscience. This has motivated me to explore and investigate the methods being developed in an attempt to replace animal models. In particular, I came across in silico human-based computer models in research that are reported to produce results consistent with, or better than animal models.”

An important skill for any researcher is knowing how to review the body of existing evidence to help formulate a plan to address a research question. Literature reviews and systematic reviews are two ways of doing this. Literature reviews consider all published work in a particular area, whilst systematic reviews are a more carefully planned, comprehensive review that aims to take into account unpublished evidence as well. Searching for and through research in this way is key, particularly when researchers are considering animal research.

Amy Beale says: “The correct implementation of the 3Rs in research is a requirement under legislation to protect animals used for scientific purposes. Replacement is the priority. Animal research must be replaced with non-animal methods that can supply the same information if they exist. To do this sufficiently, the ability to search through the field for other methods and evaluate them is fundamental. Carrying out such reviews effectively is now more important in a world where new computer technology and cell culture methods are being developed and validated all the time. As more ‘alternatives’ to animals are successfully used and published they have to be shared, read and followed up if we want to drive their progression and uptake to a point where we can eliminate the need for animals in testing and research.”

Will is drawing on the skills he developed during a bioinformatics-based placement year where he investigated the role of the psychiatric risk gene, SETD1A. Will is hoping in the future to use the skills from his degree to carry out either a psychiatric or neurodegenerative disease-focused PhD, or to train as a clinical scientist in the NHS. We are sure this Summer Studentship project, which is being supervised by Dr Wynand van der Goes van Naters at Cardiff University, will stand him in good stead.

William Hunt is studying for a BSc in Neuroscience with a professional training year at Cardiff University. Will’s project: ‘Using Computer Models as a Method of Replacing the Use of Animals in Neuroscience Research’ incorporates a review into computer modelling, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, with a discussion around the application of these tools in specific areas of neuroscience research.

Summer Studentship Funding 2021 Summer Studentship Projects

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