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Dr Michelle Roche Neuroscientist.

Dr Michelle Roche is a Neuroscientist and Senior Lecturer in Physiology. Her research interests involve understanding the neurobiological mechanisms and interrelationship between depression, autism and pain.

Depression and chronic pain can co-occur in up to 70% of patients. Dr Roche is interested in understanding the biological mechanisms underlying the high co-occurrence of these disorders. Her research has provided preclinical support for specific neuronal pathways and neuro-immune changes in the association between these conditions. Targeting the neuronal and immune responses with antidepressants, anti-inflammatory or modulating the body’s own cannabis-like system, has resulted in changes in behaviour and molecular markers associated with depression and chronic pain. Thus modulating neuro-immune interactions may provide a new therapeutic avenue for this co-morbidity.

The nervous and immune systems also interact to coordinate our body’s response to bacterial and viral infection. Our research has shown that by altering the immune response in the brain following bacterial and viral infection, the body’s own cannabis-like system can limit sickness behaviour and importantly the potential long-term changes on emotion and pain. Thus by modulating the body’s cannabinoid system the immune response to bacterial and viral infection remains, but the adverse effects on the brain may be limited.

Dr Roche employs a multidisciplinary collaborative approach to addressing her research questions. Her research is supported by national funding bodies including Science Foundation Ireland and industry collaborations.