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We work to understand the principles underlying the development of the basal ganglia; a network of interconnected subcortical nuclei important for cognition and motor control.

Two striatal medium-spiny neurons labelled with streptavidin-Cy3 (in red) embedded in a network of GFP-labelled D1 receptor-expressing spiny neurons (in green).

The overall aim of our group is to understand how neural circuits, in particular those in subcortical structures such as the basal ganglia, are formed early in development. Newly born neurons contain sets of genetic instructions and are exposed to early patterns of neural activity; both of which will shape their development and integration within neural circuits. Genetic mutations and environmental insults affect these processes and can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders such autism, schizophrenia, ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome. Many fundamental questions remain unanswered and need to be addressed to improve treatment options. For example: Which genes are important for a neuron’s electrical and morphological identity? What is the function of these early neural activity patterns? How do synaptic connections between newly born neurons arise? To study these questions we combine multi-neuron patch-clamp electrophysiology, optogenetic and pharmacogenetic techniques, in vivo silicon probe recordings as well as behavioural and computational approaches.

Current ongoing research: 

  • Circuit connectivity - Using multi-neuron patch-clamp electrophysiology we are investigating when and how synaptic connections are formed.
  • Neural progenitors – Using embryonic labelling techniques we are investigating the role for diverse neural progenitors in controlling both neural circuit connectivity as well neuronal identity.
  • Neuronal oscillations – Using both in vivo electrophysiology and in vitro models of the earliest network activity patterns we are investigating the cellular mechanisms by which these activity patterns are generated and what function they might have in the developing brain.

Our team

Selected publications

Research Funding

MRC Career Development Award (2015-2020)

Related research themes