Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology

Research within the Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology Division aims to understand the molecular and cellular processes that enable communication and network activities within neuronal systems. It is these fundamental building blocks of neurobiology that give rise to all human experience including our sensory perception, language and cognition, and emotions. However, these processes are also often what are perturbed in devastating human disorders such as during neurodegeneration resulting from ageing or stroke.  Thus, our research ranges from the identification of the roles of single genes and molecules in synaptic transmission to the neural basis for the acquisition of learned behaviours, brain damage and disease.

Tyrosine hydroxylase+ve neurons in a zebrafish larval brain. Jonathan McDermid

Tyrosine hydroxylase+ve neurons in a zebrafish larval brain.
Jonathan McDearmid


Bug Brain

Social rearing conditions affect brain size and structure: half-brain of an isolation-reared solitarious desert locust (left) and of a crowd-reared swarming gregarious locust of the same species (right). Swidbert Ott

Forsythe, Hamann, Hartell, Marra and Straub use a range of model systems, including the calyx of Held giant synapse, to examine the pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms responsible for synaptic signalling. Using new and established technologies such as super-resolution imaging, fluorescent protein sensors, electrophysiology and ultra-structural identification of transmitter release this group examines the roles of receptors, second messengers and ion channels in synaptic transmission, plasticity and network activity.

Building upon this expertise in basic synaptic signalling, a second focus of our research is the molecular and cellular basis of behaviour including psychiatric disease. Using transgenic zebrafish (McDearmid & Norton), invertebrates (Matheson, Ott, Straub) and rodent models (Apergis-Schoute, Canales, Gerdjikov, McCutcheon, Urcelay and Young) this group uses in vitro and in vivo approaches to examine the neurobiology underpinning sensory processing, growth, development, learning and memory, nutrition and feeding, swarming behaviour, addiction and schizophrenia.

Cortical cultures stained for MAP2 (red), GAD (green) and Hoechst (blue)

Cortical cultures stained for MAP2 (red), GAD (green) and Hoechst (blue). Volko Straub

Paired recording from brain slice

Paired recording from brain slice.
Vincenzo Marra

T2-weighted MRI scan in mice showing edematous (tissue) post-stroke.
Claire Gibson/Melissa Trotman

Our research also investigates the specialized cell biology of neural cells and how it may be perturbed by ageing, disease and injury. Luthi-Carter, McDearmid, Gibson, Hamann and Hartell examine mechanisms of protein aggregation, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, sterol homeostasis, calcium homeostasis and synaptic dysfunction in this context. Specific research areas include the mechanisms of and prospective therapies for healthy ageing, Huntington's, Parkinson's, motor neurone and Alzheimer’s diseases, stroke, hearing loss and tinnitus. The creation and use of disease models incorporating causal and susceptibility genes is a particular strength. Screening approaches for novel therapeutic targets include the use of unbiased, genome-wide genetic and expression screens incorporating novel statistical and bioinformatic approaches.

We also have strong collaborative links with other Departments and Colleges including Genetics, The MRC Centre for Toxicology, The Space Research Centre and Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Our research is funded by the BBSRC, MRC, EU, The Wellcome Trust, Hearing Research UK, NC3Rs, and Motor Neurone Disease Association.

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Contact the Department

Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour
University of Leicester
University Road

T: +44 (0)116 252 2922
E: npbenquiries@le.ac.uk


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