Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology



The Research Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology (NPP; Head: Professor Trevor G Smart) is located in UCL’s Bloomsbury Campus on Gower Street and forms an important part of the Division of Biosciences within the Faculty of Life Sciences. Its dual remit is to pursue world-class research in the neurosciences as well as the highest quality teaching to both undergraduates and postgraduates studying in basic and clinical sciences.

In the area of Neuroscience, the Department is organised into two major research groups: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, and Systems Neuroscience and Behaviour. In Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, UCL has an outstanding history of basic research into neurotransmitter receptors, ion channels and synaptic transmission based on the seminal contributions from Katz, Miledi, Fatt, Huxley, Young, Clark, Gaddum, Schild and Black, and many others, who have been part of our Department. We have always placed a major emphasis on the quantitative analysis of drug-receptor interactions and synaptic transmission. This has evolved to cellular and molecular analyses of membrane protein function (structure-function, homology modeling, trafficking, signaling) and investigation of central synaptic transmission (receptor-associated molecules, neurotransmitter release, turnover of synaptic and extrasynaptic receptors), which form the cornerstones of our current research programmes.

The Department is considered a world leader in fundamental research on the molecular properties of ligand-gated and voltage-gated ion channels, as well as G-protein-coupled receptors and associated signaling pathways. To enable this, the Department provides a rich research environment enabling access to cutting edge techniques in electrophysiology, cellular and molecular biology, and imaging.

In Systems Neuroscience and Behaviour, there are many facets to our research using in vivo systems-based approaches which rely on cross-cutting electrophysiological and molecular techniques. These have produced significant contributions to our understanding as to how neural networks impact on behaviour. Our Department coordinates the Wellcome Trust Pain Consortium (a collaboration between UCL, KCL, Imperial and Oxford) that involves several of our research groups studying pain in both basic and clinical research settings. At the single cell level in vivo, several groups use patch clamp recording, optogenetics and imaging to understand and trace the links between single cell excitability, network activity and behaviour and learning in whole organisms. As part of our systems neuroscience, the Department is a key contributor to the new Sainsbury-Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits that is under construction. The mission of this centre is to deduce how brain circuitry controls behaviour. 

The Department has a substantial teaching portfolio including undergraduate teaching for BSc Neuroscience or Pharmacology as well as Masters programmes directly based on our research (see In addition, the Department directs major 4-yr PhD training programmes, including our flagship 4-year Wellcome Trust Neuroscience PhD degree; Wellcome Trust 4-year London Pain Consortium PhD; 4-year MRC Life and Biomedical Sciences PhD; and the EPSRC funded CoMPLEX 4-year PhD programme. (see

In recognition of our high international research standards, our core research activities have, to date, always attracted the highest research ranking from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) at all of the research selectivity exercises held to date (last - 2008).

Cellular mechanisms of hearing
Professor Jonathan Ashmore FRS

Neuron-glial interactions and brain energy supply
Professor David Attwell FRS

Glycine activated channels and glycinergic synapses
Dr Marco Beato

Pharmacological control of neuronal excitability
Professor David A. Brown FRS

Neural systems, metabolic control, sleep
Professor Denis Burdakov (NIMR)

Neuronal basis of spatial cognition, learning and memory
Dr. Francesca Cacucci

Lipid-mediated signalling and exocytosis
Professor Shamshad Cockcroft

Ion channels and synaptic transmission Professor David Colquhoun FRS

Glutamate receptor channels and fast synaptic transmission in the brain

Professor Stuart G. Cull-Candy FRS

Pain and analgesia
Professor Anthony H Dickenson

Functional studies of voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels and interactions with G-proteins
Professor Annette C. Dolphin

Synaptic transmission in the brain
Dr Frances Edwards

Ionotropic GABA and glutamate receptor signalling
Professor Mark Farrant

The development of pain processing in the nervous system
Professor Maria Fitzgerald FMedSci 

Steroids in the nervous system
Dr Jonathan Fry

Neural signalling and nitric oxide
Professor John Garthwaite

Ion channel receptors and synaptic transmission
Professor Alasdair J. Gibb

Neural Networks involved in Sympathetic Motor Control: Central and peripheral aspects
Professor Michael P Gilbey 

Spatioitemporal signalling mechanisms in synaptic plasticity
Dr Matthew Gold

Autonomic Neuroscience
Professor Alex Gourine

Neural Computation
Professor Michael Hausser

Sensory Neuroscience in Humans
Dr. Giandomenico Iannetti

Cell signalling by extracellular nucleotides and derivatives
Dr Brian King

Cell biological mechanisms underlying neuronal excitability and synaptic plasticity
Professor Josef Kittler

Neuronal Processing
Professor Troy Margrie (NIMR)

Molecular pharmacology of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
Professor Neil Millar

Pharmacology of potassium channels
Dr Guy Moss

The synaptic targeting and regulation of inhibitory amino acid neurotransmitter receptors
Professor Stephen J. Moss

Molecular and cellular basis of ion channel function in central nervous system neurones

Dr Paola Pedarzani

Central neuropharmacology of autonomic regulation
Professor Andrew Ramage

Neurophysiology of behaviour
Professor Andreas Schaefer (joint with NIMR)

Structure and function of glutamate receptors
Professor Ralf Schoepfer

Regulation of neurotransmitter release
Dr Talvinder S. Sihra

Synaptic mechanisms and signal processing
Dr Robin Angus Silver

Ion channels in the nicotinic superfamily: nicotinic receptors and glycine receptors
Professor Lucia Sivilotti

Inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors: The GABA receptor family, Molecular properties and Regulation
Professor Trevor G. Smart FRPharmS, Head of Department

Neuronal Processing
Dr Per Jesper Sjöström

Function and pharmacology of monoamine neurotransmitters
Dr S. Clare Stanford

Molecular neurobiology of potassium channels
Dr Martin Stocker

Central Metabolic Control
Dr Stefan Trapp

Molecular mechanisms of the Cystic Fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR)
Dr Paola Vergani

Immunopharmacology of inflammation
Dr Dean Willis

Molecular Nociception Group
Professor John Wood

Cerebellum as a neuronal machine
Professor Christopher H. Yeo

CLC proteins and their chloride/proton exchange function
Dr Anselm Zdebik