Seven photos of the gallery piece “Zoom into your brain” featuring the Unit’s work at the exhibition “Your Amazing Brain: A User’s Guide” held at the Banbury Museum & Gallery

We are proud to announce that some of the Unit’s microscopic images, illuminating in beautiful detail the circuits and cells of the mammalian brain, are on public display as part of a new exhibition being held at the Banbury Museum & Gallery.

The exhibition, entitled “Your Amazing Brain: A User’s Guide”, runs from 12th February to 5th June 2022 and is an interactive, family-friendly experience offering the public an opportunity to journey inside the brain and discover more about what makes the brain so special.

The Unit’s images form the core of a gallery piece “Zoom into your brain” that showcases, at increasing magnification, the organisation of the brain into regions, different types of neurons, and specialised structures such as axons, dendrites, and synaptic connections. Unit researchers Natalie Doig, Kouichi Nakamura and Ben Micklem each provided spectacular shots taken with our microscopes.

Dr Natalie Doig, who led on the curation of the Unit’s images for the exhibition, commented “We are delighted to showcase the Unit’s work and play our part in helping immerse and inspire others in the wonders of the brain. It was a pleasure to team up with departmental colleagues at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and contribute to the exhibition.”

On the left, a cartoon of human head showing an implanted brain pacemaker device. On the right, a cartoon showing a circle of steps in the research system.

We are excited to announce that Unit researchers have made pivotal contributions to a first-in-human implant of a bioelectronic research system designed to advance the development of new and improved treatments for brain disorders.

Working with collaborators at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences and Department of Engineering Science, and in partnership with industry, Unit researchers will help deliver the MINDS feasibility study, an innovative clinical trial of a novel brain pacemaker for stimulation of deep brain structures in patients with Multiple Systems Atrophy.

The pacemaker device is part of an investigational research platform, the ‘PicostimTM-DyNeuMo,’ which was developed as part of a strategic collaboration between Unit Group Leader Professor Tim Denison and the UK-based bioelectronics technology company Bioinduction Ltd.. Going forward, the research team aim to identify electrophysiological brain signals that can be used as biomarkers to indicate pathological states, and investigate how these vary throughout the day/night cycle, with a view to ultimately developing ‘closed-loop’ brain stimulation patterns that optimise symptom management and improve sleep.

Professor Tim Denison, who will lead the Unit’s contribution to the MINDS study, commented “Implantable stimulators provide a unique platform for enabling clinical neuroscience by providing 24/7 access to brain networks. Scientific instrumentation first serves to help understand disease pathology and can then be configured to prototype enhanced therapy options including customization for patient-specific physiology. The creation of fully-implantable clinical research tools required cooperation between academics and industry to ensure the instrumentation meets stringent regulatory standards, and the PicostimTM-DyNeuMo research tool is the result of symbiotic collaboration with Bioinduction leveraging their PicostimTM platform.”

Portrait photo of Shenghong He

Many congratulations to Unit postdoctoral researcher Dr Shenghong He on being awarded a prestigious Non-Clinical Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Guarantors of Brain.

The Guarantors of Brain is a charity that aims to promote teaching, education and research in neurology and related clinical-academic disciplines. The Non-Clinical Postdoctoral Fellowships support talented researchers who are not clinically qualified but who are nevertheless working in a clinical neuroscience setting and have clear goals for clinical translation.

Shenghong will start his Fellowship in February, working under the mentorship of Associate Professor Alex Green (Nuffield Departments of Clinical Neurosciences and Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford) and Unit Group Leader Associate Professor Huiling Tan. Shenghong’s Fellowship research will be focused on investigating the utility of gait-phase-dependent adaptive Deep Brain Stimulation and neurofeedback training for people with gait disturbances.

Shenghong commented: “I am delighted to be awarded this fellowship. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Alex, Huiling and their teams to better understand the pathological mechanisms and symptoms of different brain diseases, and to advance my research on brain-machine interfaces for improved treatments.”

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We are pleased to welcome Adrien Causse to the Unit as a visiting student.

Adrien originally studied Medicine at the University of Montpellier-Nîmes, France, joining the national MD-PhD program with the “Ecole de l’INSERM Liliane Bettencourt” (French National Institute for Medical Research). For his undergraduate research project, Adrien studied the pharmacology of metabotropic receptors by using nanobodies in Jean-Philippe Pin's laboratory (University of Montpellier). Adrien then joined the "Ecole Normale Supérieure" (Lyon, France) to pursue a M.Sc. in Biology. For his first M.Sc. project, Adrien worked on fear memory consolidation under the supervision of Thomas Bienvenu in the laboratory of Cyril Herry (University of Bordeaux). Now, to complete his M.Sc., Adrien is joining the Dupret Group for a 6-month internship to learn data analysis methods to investigate hippocampal oscillatory dynamics.  
 

3 logos of the MRC Units and Centre participating in the research network

We are delighted to announce that the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit has received funding to support a new research collaboration that aims to advance the use of next-generation transcranial magnetic stimulation devices for studies of human brain function in health and disease.

The new collaboration will capitalise on the Unit’s interactions with the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (MRC CBU) at the University of Cambridge and the MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MRC CNDD) at King's College London. As part of this collaboration, the Unit will leverage its bioengineering expertise and industry partnerships to develop devices that allow for unprecedented control over the patterns of magnetic stimuli that can be delivered to the brain.

Unit Interim Director Professor Peter Magill commented “This is a really exciting opportunity for us to team up with world-leading researchers at the MRC CBU and MRC CNDD. By working together, we envisage that rapid and sustainable progress can be made towards delivering devices with the potential to enhance research across the UK and further afield.”

Professor Tim Denison, who will lead the Unit’s contribution to the new research network, commented “We look forward to working with our collaborators as we pursue our shared goal of providing - in an open and transparent manner - the wider research and innovation community with our latest state-of-the-art transcranial magnetic stimulation system for therapy discovery and translational research.”

Dr. Lothar Krinke, CEO Magstim Group Inc., commented “The UK has led the field of transcranial magnetic stimulation technology since the initial invention at Sheffield University. This grant to our academic partners will address important needs for researchers and clinicians in the field of non-invasive brain modulation. We value our partnership with the research network and are collaborating to ensure that new technology will be available to users and customers around the world.”

Portrait photo of Professor Charlotte Stagg

Many congratulations to Unit Group Leader Professor Charlotte Stagg on being awarded a Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship.

Wellcome Senior Research Fellowships support researchers who are emerging as global leaders in their field and who want to tackle the most important questions in science.

Unit Interim Director Professor Peter Magill commented: “We are thrilled for Charlie. Her Fellowship is thoroughly deserved, and is a fitting testament to her outstanding track record and compelling research vision. The Fellowship will help Charlie to continue making critical contributions to the Unit’s pioneering cross-species approach to discovery and translational research.”

Portrait photo of Shenghong He

Congratulations to Unit postdoctoral researcher Dr Shenghong He on winning the Director’s Award for Data Sharing for 2021.

The Award recognises and celebrates the exemplary contributions of an individual or small collective to the Unit’s data sharing activities. The Award is given annually, on the basis of the Unit Data Access Committee’s assessment of the resources uploaded to the Unit’s Data Sharing Platform.

Shenghong’s Award was announced by Unit Interim Director Professor Peter Magill at the Unit’s Winter Science Day last week. Professor Magill commented “It is a great pleasure to recognise and reward Shenghong in this way. Shenghong showed great personal initiative in curating and sharing three distinct resources that are related to his recent publications, even though the host journals did not require him to do this. The Committee was particularly impressed by Shenghong’s sharing of complete original datasets with matching code that together allow users to reproduce the results/figures documented in his papers. An excellent approach to promoting reuse and reproducibility.”

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Zoo screenshot showing webcam images of smiling faces of those taking part in the Science Day event on 10th December 2021.

The Unit held its thirteenth Science Day on Friday 10th December 2021. Unpublished work and future research projects were the focus of discussion, and Unit members and visitors enthusiastically took the opportunity to provide the constructive criticism that is vital for nurturing collaborative, multidisciplinary research.

There were 8 short research talks, all of which were given by the Unit’s early-career scientists. Attendees were also treated to two Keynote Lectures: A first by Dr. Leila Reddy of the Centre de Recherche Cerveau et Cognition (CerCo), Toulouse, France, during which she detailed unique research insights into the encoding of sequence learning by human hippocampal neurons; and a second lecture by Dr. Armin Lak of the University of Oxford, in which he gave an engaging account of neuronal circuits important for learning from sensory confidence and reward value.

Unit Interim Director Professor Peter Magill commented: “It was exciting to see how the creative thinking and innovative experiments of the Unit’s students and postdoctoral staff are pushing back the frontiers of discovery and translational research. It was also a distinct pleasure to announce the inaugural winner of the Director’s Award for Data Sharing. Dr Shenghong He is a most deserving Award winner.”

Full resolution group screenshot.

Portrait photo of Carolina Reis

Our congratulations go to Unit D.Phil. student Carolina Reis for successfully defending her doctoral thesis, entitled “Probing and restoring disrupted thalamocortical interactions during Parkinson’s disease and Essential tremor”, in her viva voce examination on 18th October 2021.

Carolina’s viva examiners were Dr Rick Helmich (Radboud University, The Netherlands) and Professor Rafal Bogacz (University of Oxford). The viva took place remotely via digital conferencing.

Carolina was supervised by Associate Professor Hayriye Cagnan, Associate Professor Andrew Sharott and Professor Peter Brown.

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Logo of Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s

We are delighted to announce that the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit has received funding from the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative for a substantial multi-year research collaboration to advance the understanding of brain cell and circuit dysfunction in Parkinson’s.

The new international collaboration builds on the MRC Unit’s interactions with colleagues at the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre, and will bring three Oxford teams together with researchers based at the University of Boston, USA, the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, the University of Peking, China, and Stanford University, USA. As part of this collaboration, the MRC Unit will leverage its leading expertise in high-resolution in vivo phenotyping of rodent models of Parkinson’s.

ASAP is a coordinated research initiative to advance targeted basic research for Parkinson’s disease. Its mission is to accelerate the pace of discovery and inform the path to a cure through collaboration, research-enabling resources, and data sharing. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research is ASAP’s implementation partner and issued the grant.

Professor Peter Magill, who will lead the Unit’s contribution to the collaboration, commented, “This is an exciting opportunity to enhance the Unit’s strong portfolio of fundamental and translational neuroscience research. We look forward to working with our collaborators as we pursue our shared goal of defining why, how and when brain network dynamics go awry in Parkinson’s.”