News

  • Unit

    Congratulations to Unit administrative staff member Mrs Savita Anderson on winning the Director’s Award for Public Engagement for 2017.

    The Award is given annually, on the basis of nominations made by Unit members, to recognise and celebrate the exemplary contributions of an individual or small collective to the Unit’s extensive Outreach Programme.

    Savita received her Award from Unit Director Professor Peter Brown at a special ceremony held at the Unit’s biannual Science Day.

    Professor Brown commented “It gives us all great pleasure to reward Savita in this way. Savita has played key roles in organising the Unit’s public engagement activities over the last 2 years, and the success and impact of these activities stem from Savita’s energy, enthusiasm and logistics skills. This Award clearly reflects that Savita’s colleagues really value the first-class support that she gives them.”

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  • Unit

    The Unit held its fifth Science Day on Friday 30th June 2017. Ongoing and future research projects were the focus of discussion, and Unit members and visitors eagerly took the opportunity to give the constructive feedback that is needed to support collaboration and to foster cutting-edge research.

    There were 14 short talks and 9 poster presentations, most of which were given by the Unit’s early-career scientists. Unit Director Professor Peter Brown commented “Another fantastic day of science, and a great opportunity to take stock of our collective progress. It is always a pleasure to see the next generation of our talented scientists in action and to learn from them.”

  • Unit

    The MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit has won a special commendation as part of the 2017 Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards. Now in their second year, these Awards recognise and reward excellence in public engagement with research.

    At the Awards Ceremony held on 28th June 2017, the Unit was Highly Commended in the category of ‘Building Capacity’, which accepted nominations from across the University, including divisions, departments, faculties, research groups, museums, libraries, collections, colleges, platforms and programmes.

    The Unit’s official citation read: “The Unit has devised and delivered a comprehensive, innovative and impactful programme for public engagement with research, focusing on two key audiences: pupils attending local secondary schools, and people affected by Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders.”

    Unit Deputy Director Professor Peter Magill, who led the nomination, commented: “We are delighted that our collective achievements in public engagement have been recognised by the University in this way. The Unit views outreach to be an essential aspect of modern research, and has endeavoured to lead by example in this area. Through creating a sustainable, inclusive culture of communication across all levels of the Unit membership, as well as by fostering new partnerships with key stakeholders, we are able to deliver outreach activities of the very highest quality.”

  • Unit

    On 22nd June, a team of Unit members visited Year 4 pupils and their teachers at St Ebbe's C. of E. (Aided) Primary School in central Oxford, to help them learn more about science, scientists, and how the brain works to control memory and movement.

    Pupils were first given a brief introduction to the work of the Medical Research Council and the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit. Pupils, teachers and Unit members then engaged in a range of hands-on activities that included looking at nerve cells under a microscope, reporting on observations by making model cells, measuring electrical activity from muscles to control a robotic claw, comparing the brains of different vertebrates, discovering different types of memories, and using a game version of a brain-machine interface. In all these activities, the guiding motto was "See - Do - Report", an approach devised by the Unit to mirror the "Concrete - Pictorial - Abstract" method that the pupils use in their maths classes.

    School teacher Mrs Geerthi Ahilan commented: “It was just so lovely to see everybody learning together - both children and adults. The whole approach was so inclusive that every child was challenged and felt they achieved. The whole morning was just brilliant - one that will be ingrained in their memories for many years to come.”

    Unit Programme Leader Dr David Dupret, who coordinated the visit, commented: “What a great time back at school! Sharing the thrill of observing and explaining the brain with these very young investigators made my day, and reinforced the importance of encouraging children to get involved with science.”

    The Unit’s visit to the school was one of many public engagement events led by the Medical Research Council and held across the country from 17th-25th June 2017 as part of the MRC Festival of Medical Research.

  • Unit

    On 19th June, the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit welcomed lay members of the Oxford and Banbury groups of the charity Parkinson’s UK to learn more about the Unit’s research on the causes and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

    The visit began with Unit Director Peter Brown highlighting the work of the Medical Research Council, the Unit’s scientific mission, and the joint commitment to public engagement with research. This was followed by short presentations from Unit research fellow Damian Herz on Deep Brain Stimulation as a therapy for Parkinson’s, and from Unit Deputy Director Peter Magill on the use of animals in Parkinson’s research. Each of the talks was integrated with a lively discussion session in which the visitors’ questions came thick and fast.

    After lunch on site with a group of the Unit’s early-career scientists, visitors were offered a tour of the Unit’s laboratories, led by Andrew Sharott, Paul Dodson and members of the Magill and Sharott Groups, and given the opportunity to chat with scientists and see ongoing research for themselves. Those not attending the lab tours were treated to short presentations from Unit student Benoit Duchet on the use of computer models to optimise Deep Brain Simulation in Parkinson’s, and from Unit Programme Leader David Dupret on the role of dopamine in memory, while highlighting the importance of the mutual exchange of ideas and discoveries made in the clinical and “basic” research fields. The visit concluded with refreshments, a final Q & A session, and a chance for the visitors to give their feedback to the Unit team.

    Peter Magill commented “The Unit counts people affected by Parkinson’s amongst its key stakeholders, and our open day was a fantastic chance for us to discuss our research with them. Our visitors’ questions and comments were not only insightful, but also helped us to reflect on what’s most important.”

    The Unit’s open day was one of many public engagement events led by the Medical Research Council and held across the country from 17th-25th June 2017 as part of the MRC Festival of Medical Research.

  • Unit

    We are pleased to welcome Dr Kai Loewenbrück to the Unit as a visiting scientist. Kai is a neurologist at the University Hospital of Dresden, Germany. He specialises in the treatment of people with advanced Parkinson’s. During Kai's time in the Unit, he aims is to further investigate the potential of ‘closed-loop’ Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) as a therapy for Parkinson’s. He is specifically interested in how the closed-loop approach may diminish side effects, such as impaired speech intelligibility and altered behavioural control. In addition, Kai aims to understand how closed-loop DBS could be crafted to better address specific problems of motor performance in people with advanced Parkinson’s, such as freezing. He plans to conduct his studies as a collaboration between Professor Peter Brown’s Group and his home university.

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  • Unit

    Our congratulations go to Unit D.Phil. student Gido van de Ven for successfully defending his doctoral thesis, entitled “Reactivation and Reinstatement of Hippocampal Assemblies”, in his viva voce examination on 8th June 2017.

    Gido’s examiners were Dr Daniel Bendor (Department of Experimental Psychology, University College London) and Professor Tim Behrens (Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford).  Gido was supervised by Dr David Dupret.

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  • Unit

    We are pleased to welcome Dr Magdalena Baaske to the Unit as a Rosetrees Trust Fellow in the Sharott and Brown Groups. Magdalena received her M.D. from the University of Hamburg, Germany, in 2012, where she worked with Dr Christian Moll to characterize electrophysiological changes in basal ganglia activity in a genetic mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. Magdalena then trained as a clinical research fellow in neurology at the Institute of Neurogenetics, Lübeck, which has a focus on movement disorders. During this time, Magdalena carried out intraoperative electrophysiological recordings from movement disorder patients undergoing the implantation of deep brain stimulation electrodes. During her time in the Unit, Magdalena will analyse intraoperative recordings of subthalamic nucleus neurons made in collaboration with the Functional Neurosurgery team at the University of Hamburg.

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  • Unit

    We are pleased to welcome Laolu Ayeko for his Final Honours School research project in the Magill Group. Laolu is currently studying for his B.A. in Medical Sciences at the University of Oxford. During Laolu’s time in the Unit, he will work closely with Dr Natalie Doig on a project investigating the structural basis of communication between the subthalamic nucleus, striatum, and external globus pallidus.

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  • Unit

    We are pleased to welcome Michael Orrell for his Final Honours School research project in the Magill Group. Michael is currently studying for his B.A. in Medical Sciences at the University of Oxford. During Michael’s time in the Unit, he will work closely with Dr Paul Dodson on a project investigating the differential vulnerability of dopamine neurons in rodent models of Parkinson’s disease.

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