Our research group comprises Post-Doctoral Fellows, Lab Technicians, PhD Candidates and Visiting Students.
Professor Rob Brownstone
Professor Brownstone’s research program is built around the philosophy that while motor system disease phenomenology can be defined in people (his clinical practice), mechanisms must be studied in animal models in order to develop better treatment strategies. To this end, his lab has developed preparations and methodologies to study neural circuits in the mouse brain stem and spinal cord and their role(s) in motor behaviours. The lab uses a variety of tools to study circuits: from the study of biophysical properties in reduced preparations to the study of animal behaviour in targeted knock-out mice. They have identified a number of key circuits, including neural circuits underlying hand grasp function.
Post Doctoral Researchers
Dr Isabel Glover
Dr Camille Lancelin
Dr Amanda Pocratsky
Dr Ayisha Shabbir
Dr Calvin Smith
I completed my PhD in 2016 at the University of Leeds, where I developed a novel in-situ perfused preparation to study the influence of descending brain systems on spinal sensory-motor circuits. I was also involved in projects aimed at promoting functional recovery from severe spinal cord injury using combinatorial therapies. After my PhD, I completed a 1 year post-doctoral fellowship in Dr Samit Chakrabarty’s lab, also at the University of Leeds. Here, I was able to develop an in vivo technique for simultaneously assessing homonymous and heteronymous spinal reflexes and their modulation.
The focus of my investigations in the Brownstone lab is to understand the mechanisms by which the C bouton complex is able to modulate motoneuron firing and therefore muscle contraction force. I use genetic, electrophysiological (in vivo and in vitro), anatomical and behavioural techniques to study how motoneuron ion channels clustered opposite the C bouton synapse contribute to modulation of muscle force production. I am also interested in the plasticity of pre and postsynaptic components of the C bouton during exercise training and neurological disease/injury.
Research Assistants and Lab Technicians
Pierre Klein, Research Assistant
Rafaela Fernandez de la Fuente
Rafaela Fernandez de la Fuente, Lab Technician
My PhD project aims to help refine a novel experimental method to restore paralysed muscle function being developed in the Greensmith Lab at UCL. When transplanted into a peripheral nerve, embryoid bodies (EBs) containing embryonic stem cell (ESC)-derived motoneurons can form functional NMJs, enabling control of muscle contraction by electrical or optical stimulation of the graft. However, if purified motoneuron aggregates are used, functional NMJs do not form. Therefore, my hypothesis is that other cells within EBs are necessary ESC-derived motor neuron maturation and functioning. To investigate this, I generate co-cultures of pure populations of ESC-derived motoneurons, astrocytes and V3 interneurons in vitro and use immunofluorescent, electrophysiological and calcium imaging techniques to characterise the neural networks that form. My results will help optimise graft composition to improve the efficacy of graft innervation of the paralysed muscle.
Grant/Other Support: Wellcome Trust-funded PhD
From 2012 to 2015, I studied Natural Sciences at Homerton College, University of Cambridge. After graduating, I began a PhD in Neuroscience at UCL. During my undergraduate degree and the rotation phase of the PhD course, I was completed short projects studying peripheral nerve regeneration in Professor Simona Parrinello’s lab at Imperial College London, a novel axon guidance molecule in the Professor Roger Keynes’ lab at University of Cambridge, modes of Schwann cell migration in Professor Alison Lloyd’s Lab at UCL, and zebrafish hunting and startle behaviour in Dr Isaac Bianco’s Lab at UCL. Supervised by Professors Linda Greensmith and Rob Brownstone, my PhD project examines the role of astrocytes and V3 interneurons in motor neuron maturation and function in vitro. I am also a student Green Champion for the Department of Neuromuscular Diseases and a board member of PPL PWR, an organisation which promotes sustainable innovation in schools and at festivals.
Anna Hands, PhD Candidate
Donald Iain MacDonald
Donald MacDonald, PhD Candidate
Arash Ghaffari-Rafi, MSc Student
Dr Nadine Simons-Weidenmaier, Senior Lab Technician. Tel: 02034484455
Alice Winters, PA to Prof Rob Brownstone. Tel: 02031089649
Brownstone Lab Alumni
Post-Doctoral Fellows supervised:
Assistant Professor, Osaka University
Research Computing Technician II, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology
Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba
Research Associate, UCLA
Post-doctoral fellow, Université de Montréal
Associate Professor, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Associate Professor, University of Laval
Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa
Senior Research Fellow, Higher School of Economics, Moscow
Professor, University of St. Andrews
Research Associate, University of Alberta