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Our work focuses on understanding the organisation and function of certain neural pathways in the brain that are linked to psychiatric disorder. We are using this knowledge to help identify drugs to improve the treatment of psychiatric disorder.

Sharp group photo 3
Image of 5-HT containing neurons and their electrophysiological properties.

Even the most modern of drugs used in psychiatry don’t work for every patient, some drugs cause unwanted side effects, and the onset of therapeutic effect can often be slow. Currently, inadequately managed psychiatric disorder is one of the biggest global health burdens. Some of the main reasons for all this is that we still don’t fully understand how the drugs work on key neural circuits in the brain or what causes the mental illnesses that the drugs are aimed to treat.

 

Our research is focused on the pharmacological and physiological properties of neural circuits that utilise the neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin). These circuits are targeted by many drugs used in psychiatry and thought to be a key player in the cause of illnesses such as depression and anxiety. We are using a range of neurophysiological, molecular, genetic and behavioural approaches to investigate the functional properties of 5-HT neurons in experimental models. We use this information to learn more about factors that might put individuals at risk of mental health problems. W also work in collaboration with other scientists in academia and industry to identify improved pharmacological treatment strategies.

Our team

Selected publications

External collaborators


Grant Churchill, Dept of Pharmacology, Oxford

David Dupret, MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit, Oxford

David Bannerman and Stephen McHugh, Dept of Experimental Psychology, Oxford

Philip Cowen, Dept of Psychiatry Oxford

Marco Capogna, University of Aarhus

Robert Rogers, University of Bangor

Catherine Winstanley, University of British Columbia

Andrew Holmes, NIH, Washington

KongFatt Wong-Lin, University of Ulster

Yasin Temel, University of Maastricht

Mitsuhiro Yoshioka, University of Hokkaido

 

Lundbeck Pharmaceuticals, Copenhagen

Research projects

  1. A novel lithium-mimetic drug for the management of impulse control disorder
  2. Large-scale recording and computational modelling of midbrain raphe microcircuitry during emotional learning
  3. In vivo pharmacogenetic investigation of 5-HT mechanisms in emotional learning
  4. Pharmacogenetic investigation of the neural mechanisms underlying the cognitive effects of 5-HT6 ligands
  5. Mechanisms of phenotypic effects of altered 5-HT transporter gene expression
  6. Antidepressant modulation of the cortical microcircuitry


Research funding

  • MRC DPFS award
  • BBSRC Project grant
  • MRC Case Studentship
  • Wellcome-NIH Prize Studentship
  • Marie Curie Fellowship
  • Lundbeck research grant

Related research themes