Fig1Purkinjecell Fig2myelinatedaxons SJBfmri1


David Attwell

Department of Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology

Neuron-glial interactions and brain energy supply

In my lab we are interested in signalling between neurons and glial cells (oligodendrocytes, astrocytes and microglia) and in how the brain’s energy supply is controlled and determines the computational power of the brain. Recent work on neural-glial signalling has focussed on how activation of glutamate and GABA receptors on oligodendrocytes may be responsible for the mental and physical handicap occurring in white matter diseases such as cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury. Our studies of brain energy supply have characterized a new locus (in capillaries) for control of cerebral blood flow, have investigated how the energy supply is related to the neural computations performed, and have tested the consequences of failure of the energy supply in conditions like stroke. This work is performed using patch-clamp, calcium imaging and oxygen electrode techniques applied to brain slices and isolated cells, and using mathematical modelling.


Current projects include: investigating the role of oligodendrocyte NMDA receptors in the function and malfunction of oligodendrocytes; studying the electrical properties of transgenically labelled astrocytes and oligodendrocytes at different developmental stages; studying the properties of microglia (the brain’s macrophages) in brain slices; examining how the energy supply to the cerebellar cortex is matched to the computations performed; and evaluating the energy used by the neocortex on perceptual decisions.


Káradóttir, R., Hamilton, N.B., Bakiri, Y. & Attwell, D. (2008)
Spiking and nonspiking classes of oligodendrocyte precursor glia in CNS white matter.
Nature Neuroscience 11, 450-456

Peppiatt, C.M., Howarth, C., Mobbs, P. & Attwell, D. (2006)
Bidirectional control of CNS capillary diameter by pericytes
Nature 443, 700-704.
link to publication

Marcaggi, P. & Attwell, D. (2005)
Endocannabinoid signalling depends on the spatial pattern of synapse activation.
Nature Neuroscience 8, 776-781

Attwell, D. & Gibb, A (2005)
Neuroenergetics and the kinetic design of excitatory synapses.
Nature Reviews Neuroscience 6, 841-849.

Káradóttir, R., Cavelier, P., Bergersen L.H.& Attwell, D (2005)
NMDA receptors are expressed in oligodendrocytes and activated in ischaemia.
Nature 438, 1162-1169.

Hamann,M., Rossi,D., Attwell,D. (2002)
Tonic and spillover inhibition control information flow through cerebellar cortex.
Neuron.33, 625-633.

Attwell,D., Laughlin,S.B. (2001)
An energy budget for signalling in the grey matter of the brain.
J. Cereb. Blood Flow & Metab. 21, 1133-1145.

Rossi,D., Oshima,T., Attwell,D. (2000)
Glutamate release in severe brain ischaemia is mainly by reversed uptake.
Nature 403, 316-321.


Back to list of supervisors