Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology


NPP News

Dr Francesca Cacucci receives prestigious Wellcome Trust Investigator award

Congratulations to Dr Francesca Cacucci who has just secured a 5-year prestigious Wellcome Trust Investigator award. Her research will investigate how hippocampal spatial responses develop in the rat, and what are the relative roles of experience-dependent and independent processes in building cognitive maps.

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NPP's Dr Stephanie Koch in conversation with the Naked Scientists team on developing our sense of touch

Dr Stephanie Koch was interviewed on The Naked Scientists, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire for a program on touch and sensation. The Naked Scientists produce science programmes for the general public, explaining current scientific breakthroughs and topical studies. In the final podcast of their series covering the five senses, Stephanie discussed how the sensation of touch develops in neonates and how we learn to respond to painful events.

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"Self-Organized Attractor Dynamics in the Developing Head Direction Circuit" - new paper by Cacucci lab

Summary: Head direction (HD) cells are neurons found in an extended cortical and subcortical network that signal the orientation of an animal’s head relative to its environment. They are a fundamental component of the wider circuit of spatially responsive hippocampal formation neurons that make up the neural cognitive map of space. During post-natal development, HD cells are the first among spatially modulated neurons in the hippocampal circuit to exhibit mature firing properties, but before eye opening, HD cell responses in rat pups have low directional information and are directionally unstable. Using Bayesian decoding of HD cell ensemble activity recorded in the anterodorsal thalamic nucleus (ADN), we characterize this instability and identify its source: under- signaling of angular head velocity, which incompletely shifts the directional signal in proportion to head turns. We find evidence that geometric cues (the corners of a square environment) can be used to mitigate this under-signaling and, thereby, stabilize the directional signal even before eye opening. Crucially, even when directional firing cannot be stabilized, ensembles of unstable HD cells show short-timescale (1–10 s) temporal and spatial couplings consistent with an adult-like HD network. The HD network is widely modeled as a continuous attractor whose output is one coherent activity peak, updated during movement by angular head velocity signals and anchored by landmark cues. Our findings present strong evidence for this model, and they demonstrate that the required network circuitry is in place and functional early during development, independent of reference to landmark information.

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GEE and NPP exceed the Russell group average in the National Student Survey 2017

We are proud to announce that Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment and School of Pharmacy exceeded the Russell group average for “academic support” in the most recent NSS Survey. Similarly, Department of Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology excelled in “teaching”.

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1st annual Mini Glia Symposium

On 21st Nov 2017 our NPP PhD student Yajing Xu and her committee brought together a group of 35 PhD students and postdocs across UCL to attend the 1st annual Mini Glia Symposium to encourage exchange of glia research.  From 2 - 4pm the 4 speakers below engaged the group and from 4 - 6pm 12 posters were hung and everyone liaised whilst enjoying refreshments and sandwiches.  

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New Scientist Live Festival 2017

New Scientist Live is a festival of ideas and discovery, taking place at ExCeL London from Thursday 28th September to Sunday 1st October, expecting around 30,000 visitors across 4 days. The Royal Society of Biology will be running ‘Ask a Biologist’ in the exhibition area, giving members of the public the opportunity to question 24 of our member experts, find out more about what the Royal Society of Biology does and how they can get involved with us.
NPP’s Professor Jonathan Ashmore will be there on Sunday 1st October from 1:30pm to 5pm.

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Dr Kirsty Bannister receives the IBSA award 2017

Dr Kirsty Bannister lead a workshop on ‘Clinical and pre-clinical aspects of descending controls in pain’ in Copenhagen at the EFIC meeting 6-9 September 2017. Whilst there she received the IBSA award 2017 for her article 'An investigation into the inhibitory function of serotonin in diffuse noxious inhibitory controls in the neuropathic rat’, as an excellent original article in the areas of Pain Research/Medicine published in the European Journal of Pain in 2016.

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NPP contribution to IBRO Neuroscience Course for postgraduate students

Professor Alasdair Gibb taught on the IBRO Neuroscience Course for postgraduate students in Jakarta.
This course from 12-20 July 2017 was taught by 6  international speakers to about 60 local Masters and PhD students and some senior medical students, as well as local faculty from Indonesian Universities. It included 35 lectures covering various topics in basic neuroscience, including structural, biophysical, biochemical, and pharmacological approaches. Each lecturer lead daily discussion on topics in the lectures and daily tutorials on how to prepare a 10 minute talk for international research conferences.

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