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We are interested in the biological roles of the many kinds of nerve cells that make up the limbic thalamus, a group of anterior and midline thalamic nuclei with strong connectivity to brain regions involved in spatial memory, cognition and emotion. Circuits of the limbic thalamus are affected in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and are also involved in drug dependence. We study the structure and function of the limbic thalamus in rodents and humans using neuroanatomical and neurophysiological techniques.

© Dr Tim Viney

The overall aim of our group is to understand how the activity of individual nerve cells in the mammalian brain relates to their postsynaptic target neurons (i.e. their connectivity / neural circuits), and how this activity changes during different behavioural states (e.g. sleep, movement), environmental contexts (e.g. spatial navigation, sensory stimulation), and pathological processes (e.g. presence of tau tangles). We are particularly interested in defining the combined activity, molecular profiles and target regions of nerve cells of the 'limbic' thalamus and how they contribute to memory-related processes.

Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, is defined by the progressive spread of hyperphosphorylated tau proteins (tau tangles) and the build up of extracellular amyloid-beta plaques in the brain. We study the consequences of tau tangles on brain activity at the behavioural level (changes to memory), network level (oscillations), and cellular level (changes in single neuron activity). We are also investigating cell type specific biomarkers and biochemical pathways that are affected in memory-related conditions that may lead to treatments to prevent or slow disease progression.

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Our current team consists of 1 DPhil student, 1 MSc student and 1 BBSRC DTP rotation student.

We are happy to support fellowship applications from interested postdoctoral candidates.

Watch this space for announcements of open positions! 

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Interests / Keywords

  • Branched axons / efference copies
  • Causes of 'sporadic' Alzheimer's disease
  • Thalamocortical and corticothalamic interactions
  • Diversity of cortical and subcortical GABAergic neurons
  • Spatial memory processing in the temporal cortex (e.g. cell assemblies, spatial modulation)
  • Tauopathy (especially Alzheimer's disease)
  • Neuromodulation
  • Neuropeptides
  • Sleep-wake cycles
  • Oscillations (e.g. theta, gamma, ripples)

Techniques

  • Histology (immunohistochemistry, horseradish peroxidase-based diaminobenzidine reactions)
  • Light microscopy
  • In vivo neurophysiology
    • Single neuron extracellular recordings and juxtacellular labelling in awake and freely moving mice
    • High density neuronal recordings in virtual environments
  • Behavioural testing
  • Viral tracing

Current projects

  • Investigating how expression of pathological tau affects rhythmic cortical neuronal activity in a mouse model of tauopathy
  • Vulnerability of human limbic thalamus cell types in relation to tauopathy and ageing
  • Identification of GABAergic cell types in the mouse hippocampal formation
  • Causes of the selectivity and sensitivity of 'limbic' neural circuits to neurodegeneration

Past/related projects

  • Postsynaptic targets and rhythmicity of GABAergic medial septal neurons (e.g. Salib et al 2019, Viney et al 2018)
  • Behavioural-state dependent activity of identified hippocampal GABAergic neurons (e.g. Viney et al 2013, Somogyi et al 2013)

Our team

Funding

  • Alzheimer's Society
  • MRC
  • John Fell Fund
  • Nuffield Benefaction for Medicine and the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund

Alumni

  • Dr Minas Salib (DPhil 2019) - Healthcare Management Consultant, Baden-Württemberg

Related research themes