Portrait photo of Professor Peter Brown

This month sees the retirement of Professor Peter Brown as Director of the Medical Research Council Brain Network Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford. Professor Brown has led an MRC-funded research team for over 25 years. He established that synchronised rhythms amongst nerve cells in the basal ganglia of the brains of people with Parkinson’s are linked to symptoms of stiffness and slowness, and successfully pioneered therapeutic interventions that leverage this phenomenon. In 2015, he became the founding Director of the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit, and has since overseen the growth of the Unit into one of the leading international research centres exploring neuronal dynamics in health and disease.

Deputy Director Professor Peter Magill will become Interim Director, succeeding Professor Brown to ensure the Unit’s continued success.

A warm welcome to Olivia

We are pleased to welcome Olivia McGinnis to the Unit as a visiting student.

Olivia is currently pursuing her D.Phil. in Neuroscience at Oxford on a Rhodes/Clarendon Scholarship. Olivia joins the Dupret Group for spring 2021, where she will investigate hippocampal neuronal dynamics during memory task in mice under the supervision of Dr. Helen Barron.

Olivia studied Neuroscience at Harvard University, where she completed her undergraduate thesis research with Dr. Florian Engert in 2020. There, Olivia performed detailed kinematic analyses of larval zebrafish to understand algorithms implemented during goal-directed behaviours, specifically decision-making during escapes in the presence of obstacles. Her previous studies combined two-photon interrogation of a neural circuit with behavioural assays. Working with Helen in the Unit, Olivia will now learn hippocampal network physiology using a combination of in vivo multichannel extracellular recordings and calcium imaging in mice.

A warm welcome to Demi

We are pleased to welcome Demi Brizee to the Dupret Group for a period of advanced research as part of her BBSRC Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Programme at the University of Oxford.

Demi studied Neuroscience and Medicine at the Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where she completed her M.Res. in Neuroscience with Prof Steven Kushner. There, Demi studied the myelination of GABAergic interneurons and its dynamics in both human and rodent neocortex. Her studies combined in vivo manipulation of neuronal activity, advanced confocal and super-resolution microscopy, and 3D single-cell reconstruction techniques.

During Demi’s time in the Unit, she will work with Prof. Dupret to learn about mouse hippocampal network physiology using multichannel extracellular recording techniques during sleep and memory-guided behaviour.


Advert image with picture of a brain cell and text highlighting available studentships.

We are excited to announce that the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit has up to 7 MRC-funded studentships available from October 2021 to support Ph.D. (D.Phil.) projects as part of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

The MRC-funded D.Phil. projects on offer are:

Project 1. Interfacing with the brain for therapy. Supervisor: Associate Professor Huiling Tan

Project 2 (up to 2 studentships). Investigating neuronal dynamics of memory circuits. Supervisor: Professor David Dupret

Project 3 (up to 2 studentships). Computational model of dopamine function. Supervisor: Professor Rafal Bogacz

Project 4 (up to 2 studentships). Neuronal cell and circuit substrates for purposeful movements. Supervisor: Professor Peter Magill


The closing date for applications is 12.00 midday UK time on Friday 8th January 2021.

See our Studentships page for more details on projects and how to apply.

We welcome applications from both Home Students and International Students. Candidates can apply for more than one D.Phil. project. Candidates are strongly encouraged to contact project supervisors in advance of applying.

A portrait photo of Maaike van Swieten on the occasion of her D.Phil.  viva voce..

Our congratulations go to Unit D.Phil. student Maaike van Swieten for successfully defending her doctoral thesis, entitled “Physiological modulation of learning and decision-making”, in her viva voce examination on 18th November 2020.

Maaike’s viva examiners were Professor Michael Frank (Carney Center for Computational Brain Science, Brown University, USA) and Professor Chris Summerfield (Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford). The viva took place remotely via digital conferencing.

Maaike was supervised by Professor Rafal Bogacz, Associate Professor Sanjay Manohar, and Professor Peter Magill.

portrait photo of Katja Hartwich

We are pleased to welcome Dr Katja Hartwich to the Unit. Katja has joined the Dupret Group as a Research Assistant to provide specialist scientific support to the Group’s projects related to memory-guided behaviour using in vivo network recordings and anatomical techniques.

Katja graduated with a B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Marburg, Germany, and then with a M.Sc. in Animal Physiology from the University of Tübingen, Germany. She completed her doctoral studies in Biology at the Center for Brain Research, Vienna, Austria, and the MRC Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit, University of Oxford, under the supervision of Prof. T. Klausberger. During her dissertation project, Katja studied how different types of GABAergic interneurons in the rat prefrontal cortex contribute to local and hippocampal network oscillations. In 2009, Katja joined the University of Oxford, where she has worked in three roles: As an MRC Career Development Fellow in Neuroscience at the MRC Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit in the group of Prof. P. Somogyi where she investigated the activity of hippocampal interneurons during behaviour (until 2011); as a Graduate Research Assistant in Medical Sciences at the Department of Psychology in the group of Prof. J. Duncan (until 2015); and as a Research Technician in Neuroscience at the Department of Pharmacology in the group of Prof. P. Somogyi (until 2020). Katja has thus developed a broad laboratory skill-set spanning electrophysiology, anatomy, optogenetics, microscopy and behavioural analyses.

A portrait photo of Professor David Dupret

Many congratulations to Unit Group Leader David Dupret on being awarded the title of Professor of Neuroscience by the University of Oxford.

Titles of Full Professor are conferred annually in recognition of an individual’s significant influence on their field of study, as well as their track records in teaching and academic citizenship.

Unit Director Professor Peter Brown commented “I am thrilled that David’s remarkable research defining the neural basis of memory-guided behaviour has been recognised by the University in this way. The conferment of the title Professor of Neuroscience reflects both the considerable strength of David’s research and his commitment to teaching. Together with the rest of my colleagues at the Unit, I congratulate David on this major achievement!”

Alt text: A photo of Dr Damian Herz giving a presentation at the MRC Unit

We are delighted to welcome Dr Damian Herz back to the Unit as a DFF Postdoctoral Fellow in the Group led by Professor Peter Brown and Associate Professor Huiling Tan.

Damian previously worked at the Unit as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow in the Brown Group. Damian is particularly interested in adaptive Deep Brain Stimulation and decision making. His new research project, which is supported by the Independent Research Fund Denmark, will investigate both in people with Parkinson’s. The project will also involve collaboration with Professor Rafal Bogacz at the Unit, as well as with the Biomedical Statistics and Multimodal Signal Processing Unit at Mainz University Hospital, Germany.

Portrait photos of Huiling Tan, Petra Fischer and Peter Brown

A team of Unit researchers, led by Huiling Tan and with co-investigators Peter Brown and Petra Fischer, has been awarded a prestigious Network of Centres of Excellence in Neurodegeneration (CoEN) grant, in collaboration with scientists at the Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière (Brain & Spine Institute) in Paris, France.

The overall aim of the CoEN initiative is to build collaborative research activity in neurodegeneration research across borders, focusing on the critical mass and excellence.

The research project to be funded by the CoEN grant is focused on advancing adaptive Deep Brain Stimulation for the treatment of gait disturbances and freezing of gait (FoG) in people with Parkinson’s disease. By combining the expertise of the two groups, the international team aims to increase understanding of the neural basis of FoG in Parkinson’s, with a view to better predicting the occurrence of FoG episodes as well as to evaluating the efficacy of a novel biomimetic pattern of brain stimulation as a way to counteract FoG.

A portrait photo of Hayriye Cagnan

Congratulations to Unit researcher Dr Hayriye Cagnan on being awarded the title of Associate Professor by the University of Oxford.

Associate Professor titles are conferred annually in recognition of an individual’s distinction in their field as well as their wider contributions to research, teaching and administration.

Unit Director Professor Peter Brown commented “This award is a fitting testament to Hayriye’s strong research performance and other achievements. Hayriye has established a portfolio of important work leveraging modelling and dynamical systems theory, and is sure to continue to be highly successful in her career.”