UCL Division of Biosciences


Dr Tiago Branco’s research into how animals escape and shelter under threat wins ERC grant

12 December 2019

Dr Tiago Branco, UCL Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour and Principal Research Fellow at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre is one of three UCL researchers to be awarded a 5-year European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant.


Dr Branco’s project is entitled ‘Circuit and cellular mechanisms for computing spatial vectors to shelter during escape.’
Tiago is one of 301 scientists across Europe, and 50 in the UK, who has received a grant as part of the ERC’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, which is worth a total of €600 million. The ERC received 2,453 grant proposals during this funding round. The ERS bestows the Consolidator Grants to outstanding researchers who have a promising scientific track record, and between 7-12 years of experience after the completion of their doctorates.

Tiago will use his grant to look at how brain circuits map the location of safe places in an animal’s surroundings, and how that knowledge is turned into an action that allows the animal to escape threats. For instance, if a mouse knows there is a good hiding place around a corner, its brain must tell its muscles to start moving, when to turn and when to stop—and do so quickly in the face of a threat.

While the Branco Lab is looking specifically at escape behaviour, the brain’s ability to turn knowledge into action is a process that happens many times a day in humans. Whether you’re reaching for your coffee, running to catch a bus or finding your way to a meeting place, your brain is translating information about the environment into instructions for your body in order to achieve a goal.

Tiago Branco commented: “It is a privilege to receive this generous funding from the ERC, which will allow our team to tackle bold questions in neuroscience. We’re especially grateful that the funding covers a five-year term. Long-term funding allows flexibility and creativity, which are necessary for pursuing big questions.”

For more information visit https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2019/dec/three-ucl-academics-awarded-erc-consolidator-grants and https://www.sainsburywellcome.org/web/research-news/tiago-branco-erc-fun...