News

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    Members of Professor Peter Brown’s Research Programme recently took part in the National Institute of Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) Public Open Day, representing the clinical interaction between the BNDU and the BRC. The team show-cased ‘deep brain stimulation’ and, in particular, how pathological electrical signals from deep brain nuclei like the subthalamic nucleus can be picked up to help neurosurgeons hone in on the best place to site the stimulating electrode when treating Parkinson’s disease. The public were invited to try out their own skill in doing this using an ingenious skull and brain model made by Unit scientist Dr Alek Pogosyan.

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    Congratulations to Unit student Eszter Kormann who has been awarded a Senior Hulme Scholarship by Brasenose College, Oxford. These Scholarships are awarded each year to the “best doctoral students as a recognition of academic distinction”. Eszter is in the second year of her D.Phil. studies, funded by the MRC and a University of Oxford Clarendon Fund Scholarship. Working as part of Dr Andrew Sharott’s Group, Eszter is defining how neurons in the subthalamic nucleus integrate cortical inputs in the healthy and Parkinsonian brain.

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    On 17th March, the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit welcomed pupils and teachers to its Schools Open Day.

    Almost 150 pupils and their teachers, from 12 state-funded and private schools in Oxford and as far afield as Chipping Norton and Henely-on-Thames, took the opportunity to visit and learn more about science at the Unit. During their visits, pupils in small groups talked informally to Unit members about key concepts and challenges in brain research, as well as what it is like being a scientist. Special emphasis was also placed on giving pupils the opportunity to try some ‘hands on’ science and to see real working instruments and laboratories for themselves. Activities were coordinated around 6 ‘knowledge stations’, at which pupils could experience some of the Unit’s core research themes, including human brain stimulation, computer modelling of brain function, microscopy in neuroscience, the neuronal networks of memory, the brain in health and Parkinson’s disease, and the use of animals in research. At the end of the visit, pupils had refreshments and were given souvenirs to take home.

    Unit Deputy Director Peter Magill commented, “Feedback from the pupils on the day was fantastic. There was a real buzz of excitement that was shared by visitors and Unit hosts alike.”

    Local Member of Parliament, Andrew Smith, and Oxford City Councillor, Bob Price, also visited to learn more about the brain research carried out at the MRC Unit.

    The Unit’s Schools Open Day was one of many engaging events held at Oxford University during Brain Awareness Week 2016.

  • Unit

    This week, Unit Director Professor Peter Brown gave the prestigious Hermann von Helmholtz Lecture at the DGKN 2016 meeting at the University of Dusseldorf, Germany. The lecture is named after Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz, the German scientist and philosopher who made fundamental contributions to physiology, optics, electrodynamics, mathematics and meteorology in the 19th Century. In his lecture, Professor Brown described the latest advances in ‘Adaptive Neuromodulation for Movement Disorders’, and following the talk, was awarded Honorary Membership of the German Society for Clinical Neurophysiology and Functional imaging (DGKN) “in appreciation of his outstanding contributions to the pathophysiology and treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and other movement disorders”.

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    We are pleased to welcome Dr Juan Francisco Martín Rodríguez to the Unit for a 9-month postdoctoral stay in Professor Peter Brown's Group. In 2014, Juan Francisco was awarded a “Sara Borrell” postdoctoral fellowship from the Spanish Carlos III Institute of Health to study the neurophysiological and genetic factors associated with the motor and cognitive complications of dopaminergic therapy in Parkinson’s disease. He has been conducting these studies at the Biomedicine Institute of Seville, Spain, under the supervision of Dr Pablo Mir.  Juan joins Professor Brown’s Group to gain more expertise in electrophysiological data analyses.

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    On the 23rd February, Unit scientists Dr Natalie Doig and Dr Emilie Syed made a return visit to Headington Girls School in Oxford to engage with pupils of Years 11-13 in the student-led School Biology Club. Natalie discussed how the brain circuits controlling movement are organised, and the experimental techniques used to investigate them. Emilie then introduced studies of the chemical transmitter dopamine and its relation to movement and Parkinson’s disease. This was followed by a lively discussion with the pupils and an interactive practical session.

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    We are pleased to announce that Professor Marco Capogna, Programme Leader at the MRC ANU (2001-2015), has been appointed (from Trinity Term) as Professor in Neuroscience at Aarhus University Faculty of Health, Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus, Denmark. At Aarhus, Marco will teach and pursue his research interests on the neuronal circuits underlying emotional memory and related psychiatric disorders. Marco also plans collaborative interactions with DANDRITE (the Danish Research Institute of Translational Neuroscience), the Danish node of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine that was established at Aarhus University in 2013 to perform basic and translational research in the nervous system. Marco will maintain his collaborative research links with Oxford, and will be an Associate Member of the Unit. We wish Marco every success in his new position.

     

     

  • Unit

    The Rosetrees Trust have awarded funding to Unit Director Peter Brown and collaborator Professor Hagai Bergman of the Edmond & Lily Safra Centre for Brain Sciences, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, to collectively pursue new research that aims to optimise closed-loop 'deep brain stimulation' as a treatment for people with Parkinson’s disease. The research programme will run over three years, and provide for two Rosetrees and John Black Fellowships at each site, to help consolidate and advance the collaboration between these two major centres for the study of the basal ganglia.

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    We are pleased to welcome Mr Mourat Vezir to the Unit for a 3 month Erasmus Mobility Fellowship in the Group of Professor Peter Somogyi, where he will be supervised by Dr Tim Viney. Mourat is a final year biology undergraduate student from the University of Crete, Greece. He carried out his diploma thesis in the group of Dr Yannis Delezios, entitled “Qualitative and quantitative characterization of neurons of the superior colliculus”. During his time in the Unit, Mourat will investigate the projections, postsynaptic targets, and firing patterns of single medial septal neurons recorded and labelled in vivo in order to understand how medial septal neurons contribute to rhythmic activity in the hippocampus.

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  • Unit

    The Unit held its inaugural Training and Careers Development Event on Friday 29th January. Unit members and departmental colleagues were treated to a range of entertaining presentations from expert speakers, each of which was followed by a lively Q & A session.

    Dr Michaela Livingstone-Banks, Public Engagement Facilitator at Oxford Sparks, gave the opening presentation and some timely guidance on how to make public engagement activities most effective. This was followed by a talk from Professor Paul Bolam, in which he recounted his ‘top tips’ for engaging the public with neuroscience and the use of animals in research. Mr Mark Gardiner, Head of Operations at the Mary Lyon Centre at MRC Harwell, then gave a refreshing perspective on how the careers of research support staff can be developed outside of the academic mainstream. Dr Mark Ungless of Imperial College London then narrated his career trajectory, from undergraduate student to senior academic, and gave some welcome careers advice for the aspiring Principal Investigator. Professor Stephanie Cragg, from the University of Oxford, completed the Event by highlighting the pleasures and pitfalls of more traditional Lectureship roles in academia, and gave an insightful account of how to excel in both teaching and research.

    Unit Director Peter Brown commented “Our guest speakers did a fantastic job of raising awareness about the challenges and successes of public engagement and careers development. They provided some excellent role models for us all to follow.”

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