News

Benoit Duchet after his successful viva.

Our congratulations go to Unit D.Phil. student Benoit Duchet for successfully defending his doctoral thesis, entitled “Mathematical models of pathological oscillatory activity and effects of deep brain stimulation in movement disorders”, in his viva voce examination held on 15th June 2020.

Benoit’s viva examiners were Professor Roman Borisyuk (University of Exeter) and Professor Alain Goriely (Department of Mathematics, University of Oxford). The viva took place remotely via digital conferencing.

Benoit was co-supervised by Professor Rafal Bogacz and Dr Christian Bick.

A portrait photo of Peter Brown

Many congratulations to Unit Director Professor Peter Brown on the announcement today of his election to the Fellowship of The Academy of Medical Sciences.

The Academy of Medical Sciences is an independent body in the UK, with a mission to advance biomedical and health research and its translation into benefits for society. Promoting excellence is one the Academy’s key objectives. Fellowship of the Academy is based on exceptional contributions to the medical sciences. A small number of new Fellows are elected each year.

Peter commented “I am delighted to be elected, and I thank current and past members of my team and the wider MRC Unit for their terrific support and hard work.”

Unit Deputy Director Pete Magill commented: “We are all thrilled for Peter. This honour is richly deserved and long overdue! Peter is a true pioneer in the field of biomedical research, not only because he has generated new and important scientific knowledge but also because he is leveraging it to tangibly advance human health and welfare.”

A portrait photo of Ioana Grigoras

Congratulations to Unit student Ioana Grigoras on being voted a Weekly Winner in the Medical Research Zone of the online public engagement platform I'm A Scientist, Get me out of here!

The Medical Research Zone is a free online activity, funded by the Medical Research Council, where school pupils can connect with biomedical researchers and technical staff over text-based live chats. Ioana represented 'Brains and Neuroscience' in the Medical Research Zone, during four weeks in March. There were 30 researchers selected to take part in this activity, with 3-6 of them being online for each chat. The chats lasted for 30 minutes and took place several times a day during school hours. During this time, pupils could ask the researchers anything they wanted. Pupils then voted for their favourite researchers, and the researcher with the most votes at the end of each week was the Weekly Winner.

Ioana found it very rewarding to chat with the school pupils and answer their questions: "The Medical Research Zone was such a stimulating experience! I was very happy to see how excited students were to talk to us researchers and how many questions they had. They asked about our inspiration to become scientists, and what the best and worst parts of the job were. They also asked questions about what we were working on, and how our research would affect therapies for patients. They seemed to think it was pretty cool that I am using a huge doughnut-shaped machine to take pictures of people's brains! Most of the questions were somehow related to the research field we worked on, but, every now and then, there were some that had nothing to do with it. Besides explaining brain imaging, I also had to explain what a black hole is, how genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of eating disorders, or how we use the energy we get from the sun. I really liked to see what topics the students were most interested in, and I learnt so much myself in the process."

You can read Ioana’s Medical Research Zone profile here. Ioana is the second Unit researcher to participate in I’m A Scientist; Natalie Doig was an early adopter for both the MRC and Oxford University.

A photo of Dr James Whittington after successful viva

Our congratulations go to Unit D.Phil. student James Whittington for successfully defending his doctoral thesis, entitled “A Bayesian account of learning and generalising representations in the brain”, in his viva voce examination held on 27th March 2020.

James’s viva examiners were Professor Karl Friston (University College London) and Dr Andrew Saxe (Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford). Because of the recent cessation of on-site and in-person meetings, the viva took place remotely via digital conferencing.

James was co-supervised by Professor Tim Behrens and Professor Rafal Bogacz.

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We are pleased to announce that today the Unit joins the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences (NDCN) as a sixth division.  

The NDCN is one of the world’s leading centres for research and treatment in disorders of the nervous system. The department has a multidisciplinary workforce of close to 500 people, mostly based at the John Radcliffe Hospital.  The Unit will continue to have its main physical base on Mansfield Road.

Unit members anticipate progressing existing collaborations with NDCN researchers, as well as finding new ways to work together.

Unit Director Professor Peter Brown commented, "We are delighted to be joining the NDCN, and look forward to leveraging the considerable opportunities that this welcome change affords".

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We are excited to announce that the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit has four fully-funded MRC studentships available from October 2020 to support Ph.D. (D.Phil.) projects as part of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

The four D.Phil. projects on offer are:

Project 1. Neural dynamics of drug-paired memory in the mouse brain.  (Supervisor: Dr David Dupret)

Project 2. Studying circuit dynamics to understand disease mechanisms and their therapy.  (Supervisor: Dr Huiling Tan)

Project 3. Cell and circuit function in the basal ganglia in health and disease.  (Supervisor: Professor Peter Magill)

Project 4: Closed-loop modulation of neuronal plasticity.  (Supervisors: Dr Andrew Sharott and Dr Hayriye Cagnan)

The closing date for applications is 12.00 midday UK time on Wednesday 22nd April 2020.

Candidates can apply for more than one D.Phil. project. Candidates are encouraged to contact project supervisors in advance of applying. See weblinks above for more details on projects and how to apply.

A portrait photo of Dr Lucia Ricciardi

We are pleased to welcome Dr Lucia Ricciardi to the Unit as a Clinician Scientist, working in the Group led by Professor Peter Brown and in collaboration with the Functional Neurosurgery team at St. George’s Hospital, London.

Lucia studied medicine and completed her neurology specialty training at the University of Messina, Italy. After a fellowship in movement disorders at the Catholic University of Rome, Italy, and another one at the University College London, she completed a PhD in “Clinical and Experimental Neuropsycho-pharmacology and application in neuro-rehabilitation”.

Since 2016, Lucia has been working as a consultant neurologist, with a specialist interest in movement disorders, at Kingston Hospital and St George’s Hospital in London. She is part of the Deep Brain Stimulation team at St. George’s Hospital.

Lucia’s research is focused on cognitive, psychiatric and emotional dysfunction in patients with movement disorders, especially those with Parkinson’s.

Lucia has been awarded a MRC Clinical Academic Research Partnerships (CARP) Award, and now joins the Brown Group to undertake her research. She will study the neural correlates of behavioural disorders in Parkinson’s, recording cortical and deep brain activities in patients undergoing Deep Brain Stimulation surgery for the treatment of Parkinson's.

Picture of NDCN logo

We are looking forward to the whole Unit becoming part of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences (NDCN) from 1st April 2020. The Unit will form the sixth Division of the NDCN, and will bring a focus on understanding and exploiting the moment-to-moment interactions between neurons, particularly those involved in movement and memory. Joining the NDCN will afford the Unit greater opportunities for the timely leverage of its fundamental discoveries for clinical impact.

Find out more about the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

Photo of attendees at 2020 Oxford Muslim Student Research Conference

In furthering the Unit’s work in widening access and participation, Unit early-career researcher Dr Mohamady El-Gaby once again made some key contributions to the annual Oxford Muslim Student Research Conference, held this year at Merton College on 25th January.

The aims of the Conference were to encourage Muslim students to pursue careers in academia, and to continue building a network bringing together Muslim academics and students. The Conference included keynote talks from high-profile academics, showcased research presentations and posters from around the UK, and hosted panel discussions to help foster skills in research and academia.

Mohamady helped organise the Conference, and also participated in a panel discussion on “Insights into Academia: The Natural Sciences.”

Photo of Julian Nuemann, Anders Meidahl, Vlad Vyazovskiy and Andrew Sharott

Our congratulations go to Unit D.Phil. student Anders Christian Meidahl for successfully defending his doctoral thesis, entitled “Electrophysiological signals for closed-loop deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s”, in his viva voce examination held on 24th January 2020.

Anders’s viva examiners were Dr W. Julian Neumann (Department of Neurology, Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Germany) and Associate Professor Vladyslav Vyazovskiy (Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics, University of Oxford).

Anders was co-supervised by Associate Professor Andrew Sharott and Professor Peter Brown.