Associate Professor Tom Burne

Contact Information
Building: QBI Building #79
Room: 529
Tel: +61 7 334 66371

Mailing Address

Queensland Brain Institute
The University of Queensland
Brisbane, 4072


Lab Members

Lab Home Page

Short biography

Research directions

  1. Developmental vitamin D deficiency in rodents
  2. Adult vitamin D deficiency in rodents
  3. Attentional processing in animals
  4. Advanced paternal age in rodents
  5. Developmental alterations from prenatal alcohol exposure

Current collaborations


Short biography

Associate Professor Burne obtained his PhD in Neurophysiology and Behaviour, under the supervision of Professor Lesley Rogers (DSc, FABiol,FAA), from the University of New England in 1997. He went on to study behavioural neuroscience in the UK at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge, UK. His postdoctoral work with Professors Steven Rose (Open University, UK) and Lawrence Wilkinson (University of Cambridge, UK) has provided him with the foundation for a well-regarded and flourishing program in behavioural neuroscience since his return to Australia in 2002. Associate Professor Burne is now part of the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research and has been with the Queensland Brain Institute since 2005. He has published over 90 referred papers and book chapters and, in collaboration with colleagues, attracted over $3 million in grant funding (including from the NHMRC and Brain Research Foundation). Associate Professor Burne is a member of the University of Queensland Animal Ethics Committee, an Academic Editor for PLoS One and on the executive committee for the Australian Society for Psychiatric Research.

Research directions

Associate Professor Burne’s group studies brain development and behaviour in animal models to learn more about neuropsychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia. Research is focused on investigating the underlying biological basis for schizophrenia, with the goal of finding public health interventions that will alleviate the burden of this disease. The group has been exploring the impact of developmental vitamin D (DVD) deficiency on brain development, the impact of adult vitamin D deficiency on brain function and behaviour and, more recently, the neurobiological affects of having an older father.

Associate Professor Burne’s research is carried out in close collaboration with Professor John McGrath and Associate Professor Darryl Eyles, in a multidisciplinary team. Together they have an integrated research program using a broad range of neuroscientific techniques to explore potential causes of schizophrenia. There is a particular focus on early life, nongenetic risk factors and the team has skills in epidemiology, psychiatry, neuroanatomy, molecular biology, developmental biology and behavioural neuroscience. The Burne group is currently developing animal models related to risk factors for schizophrenia, with a focus on five broad research areas.

1. Developmental vitamin D deficiency in rodents

The Burne group, in collaboration with QBI’s Associate Professor Darryl Eyles and Professor John McGrath, continues to build on a solid body of research showing that low prenatal vitamin D (the ‘sunshine hormone’) is associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia and this work was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. We have explored the behaviour, brain neurochemistry and receptor profile associated with vitamin D deficiency in animal models. Now the collaboration is investigating the impact of DVD deficiency on social and cognitive behaviours.

Selected publications

Kesby, J.P., Cui, X., Burne, T. H. J. and Eyles, D.W. (2013) Altered dopamine ontogeny in the developmentally vitamin D deficient rat and its relevance to schizophrenia. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 7, 111.

Eyles, D. W., Burne, T. H. J. and McGrath, J. J. (2013) Vitamin D, effects on brain development, adult brain function and the links between low levels of vitamin D and neuropsychiatric disease. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 34(1), 47-64.

Kesby, J. P., O’Loan, J. C., Alexander, S., Deng, C., Huang, X. F., McGrath, J. J., Eyles, D. W. and Burne, T. H. J. (2012) Developmental vitamin D deficiency alters MK-801-induced behaviours in adult offspring. Psychopharmacology, 220(3), 455-463.

McGrath, J. J., Eyles, D. W., Pedersen, C. B., Anderson, C., Ko, P., Burne, T. H., Norgaard-Pedersen, B., Hougaard, D. M., Mortensen, P. B. (2010) Neonatal vitamin D status and risk of schizophrenia: a population-based case-control study. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(9), 889-894.

O’Loan, J., Eyles, D.W., Kesby, J., Ko, P., McGrath, J.J. and Burne T.H.J. (2007). Vitamin D deficiency during various stages of pregnancy in the rat; its impact on development and behaviour in adult offspring. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 32(3), 227-234.

Kesby, J., Burne, T. H. J., McGrath, J. J. and Eyles, D. W. (2006). Developmental vitamin D deficiency is associated with MK-801-induced hyperlocomotion in the adult rat: an informative animal model of schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry, 60(6), 591-596.

2. Adult vitamin D deficiency in rodents

We are also studying the impact of adult vitamin D deficiency on brain function. We have now shown that low vitamin D levels during adulthood has an impact on behaviour and brain neurochemistry in rodents. These results provide the first evidence in mice to show that adult vitamin D deficiency impacts on neurotransmitter systems that are affected in a number of neuropsychiatric conditions, including autism, schizophrenia and depression.

Selected publications

Groves, N. J., Kesby, J. P., Eyles, D. W., McGrath, J. J., Mackay-Sim, A. and Burne, T. H. J. (2013) Adult vitamin D deficiency leads to behavioural and brain neurochemical alterations in C57BL/6J and BALB/c mice. Behavioural Brain Research, 241(3), 120-131.

Cui, X., Groves, N.J., Burne, T.H., Eyles, D.W., McGrath, J.J. (2013). Low vitamin D concentration exacerbates adult brain dysfunction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Editorial). 97(5), 907-908.

3. Attentional processing in animals

The Burne group has also expanded its research tools, with a suite of cognitive behavioural tasks to assess attentional processing in rodents. The goal now is to investigate the neurobiology of altered cognition in animal models, by looking at selected cognitive domains – sensorimotor gating, working memory, attention and speed of processing, learning and memory, and problem solving – that are known to be disrupted in schizophrenia. In collaboration with other neuroscientists at QBI, we have begun to incorporate other species, such as zebrafish and fruit flies, to ask questions of the “small brain” and this research made the cover of Molecular Psychiatry.

Selected publications

Turner, K. M. and Burne, T. H. J. (2013) Interaction of genotype and environment: Effect of strain and housing condition on cognitive behaviour in rodent models of schizophrenia. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 7, 97.

Turner, K. M., Young, J. W., McGrath, J. J., Eyles, D. W. and Burne, T. H. J. (2013) Cognitive performance and response inhibition in developmentally vitamin D (DVD)-deficient rats. Behavioural Brain Research, 242, 47-53.

Harms, L. R., Turner, K. M., Eyles, D. W., Young, J. W., McGrath, J. J. and Burne, T. H. J. (2012) Attentional processing in C57BL/6J mice exposed to developmental vitamin D deficiency. PLoS One, 7(4), e35896.

Burne, T. H. J., Scott, E., van Swinderen, B., Hilliard, M., Reinhard, J., Claudianos, C., Eyles, D. W. and McGrath, J. J. (2011) Big ideas for small brains: what can psychiatry learn from worms, flies, bees and fish? Molecular Psychiatry, 16(1), 7-16.

4. Advanced paternal age in rodents

In 2010 the group published the first comprehensive study of the impact of advanced paternal age in a mouse model on behaviour and brain structure. In collaboration with researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, explorations into behavioural, genomic and brain imaging in a mouse model are now underway.

Selected publications

Flatscher-Bader, T., Foldi, C. J., Chong, S., Whitelaw, E., Moser, R. J., Burne, T. H. J., Eyles, D. W. and McGrath, J. J. (2011) Increased de novo copy number variants in the offspring of older males. Translational Psychiatry, 1, e34.

Foldi, C. J., Eyles, D. W., Flatcher-Bader, T., McGrath, J. J. and Burne, T. H. J. (2011). New perspectives on rodent models of advanced paternal age: Relevance to autism. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 5, 32.

Foldi, C. J., Eyles, D. W., McGrath, J. J. and Burne, T. H. J. (2010) Advanced paternal age is associated with alterations in discrete behavioural domains and cortical neuroanatomy of C57BL/6J mice. European Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 556-564.

Saha, S., Barnett, A., Foldi, C., Burne, T., Eyles, D., Buka, S. and McGrath, J. (2009). Advanced paternal age is associated with impaired neurocognitive outcomes during infancy and childhood. PLoS Medicine, 6(3), e40

5. Developmental alterations from prenatal alcohol exposure

Exposure to environmental insults during pregnancy can harm a developing foetus and have life-long effects on health and well-being. We have begun to use an animal model of foetal alcohol syndrome to explore the hypothesis that alcohol exposure in utero compromises epigenetic silencing leading to genetic and transcriptional variation in the brain and ultimately altered behaviour in adulthood. This work is an ongoing collaboration with Dr Suyinn Chong at the Mater Medical Research Institute and is currently underway.

Selected publications

Sanchez Vega, M. C., Chong, S., and Burne, T. H. J. (2013) Early gestational exposure to moderate concentrations of ethanol alters adult behaviour in C57BL/6J mice, Behavioural Brain Research, 252, 326-333.

Cullen, C. L., Burne, T. H. J., Lavidis, N. A. and Moritz, K. (2013) Low dose prenatal ethanol exposure induces anxiety-like behaviour and alters dendritic morphology in the basolateral amygdala of rat offspring. PLoS One, 8(1), e54924.

Current collaborations

  • Professor John McGrath, The University of Queensland

  • Associate Professor Darryl Eyles, The University of Queensland

  • Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, Griffith University

  • Dr Amy Johnston, Griffith University
  • Dr Tim Karl, Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute
  • Associate Professor Chao Deng, University of Wollongong

  • Professor Fred Meunier, The University of Queensland

  • Associate Professor Karen Moritz, The University of Queensland
  • Dr Ethan Scott, The University of Queensland

  • Dr Suyinn Chong, Mater Research
  • Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen, The University of Queensland