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We work to understand the principles underlying the neuronal development and degeneration of the basal ganglia; a network of interconnected subcortical nuclei important for cognition and motor control

Striatal msns high res
Two striatal spiny projection neurons labelled with streptavidin-Cy3 (in red) embedded in a network of GFP-labelled D1 receptor-expressing spiny projection neurons (in green).

AIMS

The overall aim of our group is to understand how neural circuits, in particular those in subcortical structures such as the basal ganglia, are formed early in development and what makes them susceptible to degeneration later in life. Newly born neurons contain sets of genetic instructions and are exposed to early patterns of neural activity; both of which will shape their development and their integration within neural circuits. However, genetic mutations and environmental insults can affect these processes early on and lead to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome and can make neurons and circuits susceptible to degeneration later in life. Many fundamental questions remain unanswered and need to be addressed to improve treatment options, such as ‘What genetic and environmental factors control a neuron’s functional identity?’, ‘How malleable are neurons and circuits during early life’, ‘What early-life events makes neurons and circuits vulnerable to neurodegeneration?’ and ‘What are the best approaches to harness answers to these questions therapeutically?’. To study such questions we combine multi-neuron patch-clamp electrophysiology, optogenetic and pharmacogenetic techniques, in vivo silicon probe recordings as well as behavioural and computational approaches.

Current research INTERESTS: 

  • Neural Circuit Connectivity - Using multi-neuron patch-clamp electrophysiology we are investigating when and how precise synaptic connections are formed.

  • Embryonic Neural Progenitors – Using embryonic labelling techniques we are investigating the roles for diverse pools of embryonic neural progenitors in controlling neuronal identity and neural circuit connectivity.

  • Physiological and Pathological Neural Activity – Using both in vivo electrophysiology and in vitro models of neural activity patterns we are investigating the cellular mechanisms by which such activity patterns are generated as well as how they impact the developing brain.

Our team

Selected publications

Research Funding

Wellcome Trust

Medical Research Council

John Fell OUP Research Fund

Royal Society 

Lab News

Related research themes