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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

We are pleased to welcome Johanna Nieweler for her research project in the Magill Group. Johanna is currently studying for her M.Sc. in Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. During Johanna’s time in the Unit, she will work closely with Dr Emilie Syed and Dr Jennifer Kaufling on a project investigating the impact of ‘optogenetic’ stimuli on the firing of midbrain dopamine neurons as well as on dopamine release in striatum.

We are pleased to welcome Istvan Lukacs to the Unit. Istvan is a M.Sc. in Neuroscience student at the University of Oxford, and has joined the Dupret Group for his second lab rotation, under Mohamady El-Gaby’s supervision. During his time in the Unit, Istvan will be studying the coordination of neuronal activity across the CA1 and the CA3 regions of the dorsal hippocampus during a conditional discrimination task. This is conducted while simultaneously recording extracellular field potentials and multiple single-unit spiking, combined with optogenetic manipulations, during learning and sleep.

We are pleased to welcome Roman Rothaermel to the Unit for his research project in the Dupret Group. Roman is currently completing his M.Sc. in Neuroscience as part of his Wellcome Trust Doctoral Programme at the University of Oxford. Durign his time in the Unit, Roman will work under the supervision of Gido van de Ven on developing an unsupervised clustering framework to divide hippocampal interneurons into different classes based on their firing properties.

Congratulations to Unit D.Phil. student Dr Anders Christian Meidahl who has received a prestigious 'King Christian X of Denmark Foundation' award in support of his research on Deep Brain Stimulation and Parkinson's disease.

The Foundation is administered on behalf of the Danish Royal Family in memory of King Christian X of Denmark, and makes awards annually on the late King's birthday. The Foundation supports medical research and cultural projects.

On 16th March, the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit welcomed pupils and teachers to its annual Schools Open Day.

Almost 120 pupils and their teachers, from 8 state-funded and private schools in Oxford city and wider Oxfordshire, took the opportunity to visit and learn more about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at the MRC 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, electrical activity in the brain, the nerve cell 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.

Oxford City Councillors Pat Kennedy and Louise Upton, and Oxford County Councillor Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, also visited to learn more about the brain research carried out at the Unit.

Unit Deputy Director Peter Magill commented, “Another great Schools Open Day at the MRC BNDU. Visitors and Unit hosts were excited to be involved, and the two-way dialogues were clearly rewarding for all.”

The Unit’s Schools Open Day was one of many engaging events held at University of Oxford during Brain Awareness Week 2017.