UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology



Research Strategy

The Unit’s research strategy is clinical and patient-centred, with the primary objective being to further improve the outcome and the quality of life of patients, and to develop new therapies for functional brain disorders. Additionally, translational research projects with external collaborators are aimed at testing new strategies to treat Parkinson’s disease and other functional brain disorders. The approach is multidisciplinary, multicentre, national and multinational. Disciplines involved include neurology, neurosurgery, neuroradiology, physics, neuropsychology, neurophysiology, neuropsychiatry, neurogenetics, neurorehabilitation, and neuro-engineering.

The principal research aims are:

  • Evaluate novel surgical and non-surgical therapies that do not involve electrical brain stimulation.

  • Expand DBS to the treatment of other disorders of the brain, in particular through national and international multicentre studies.

  • Improve the visualisation on imaging and targeting accuracy of existing brain targets by use of high field MRI.

  • Better understand how DBS works and what it affects, through the use of diffusion MRU, functional MRI, recording of local field potentials,
    Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).

  • Improve the delivery of DBS in patients with Parkinson´s disease by investigating closed loop stimulation based on physiological feedback from brain targets, and by evaluating new models of electrodes delivering directional electric current.

  • Document the impact of DBS and understand the mechanisms of its effects on cognition, mood and behaviour.

  • Develop and validate alternative methods for management of mobility and cognitive problems in PD.

  • Perform in-depth evaluation of the effects of DBS on quality of life.

  • Exploration and studies of gender-related aspects in patients with movement disorders.

  • Explore novel applications of DBS and stereotactic lesional surgery in psychiatry, in particular in depression, obsessive compulsive disorders and anorexia.

  • Explore MRI-based biofeedback training of patients with Parkinson´s disease


Ongoing and Upcoming Research Projects

  • Safety, accuracy and precision of image guided & image-verified stereotactic targeting.

  • Investigation of the effects of medical and surgical treatments on speech for patients with PD and dystonia.

  • Investigation of changes in facial expression of patients with PD undergoing surgical and medical treatments” (Tim Grover).

  • Long term effects of pharmacological and surgical treatments on speech for patients with Parkinson´s Disease.

  • Gamma knife thalamotomy for Tremor.

  • Gamma knife radiosurgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia.

  • Robot-assisted neurosurgery.

  • Long term effects of Ephedrone abuse on speech - a collaboration with Professor Lees and Dr M. Selikhova.

  • Speech defects and the potential for their pharmacological treatment in patients with PD, with clues from the songbirds. Collaboration with the Blizzard Institute, Queen Mary University of London (Professor Priestley) and Professor David Clayton.

  • Longitudinal changes in Structural & functional MR connectivity in patients undergoing stereotactic functional neurosurgery.

  • Electric field simulation in deep brain stimulation; impact on effects and side effects of DBS.

  • Local Field Potentials and Magnetoencephalography studies on DBS patients.

  • The use of real-time fMRI and biofeedback in patients with Parkinson’s disease undergoing STN DBS.

  • Generation of predictive models utilising multimodal imaging techniques for the assessment of response to deep brain stimulation surgery in corresponding surgical cohorts.

  • PROBAND study “Parkinson’s Repository of Biosamples and Networked Datasets”.

  • Safety and efficacy of microvascular decompression for SUNA.

  • Stereotactic Vo-thalamotomy for focal task specific dystonia Stereotactic ablation for depression and OCD.

  • Audit of sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation for cluster headache.

  • Imaging neurovascular conflict in patients with cluster and SUNCT headache.

  • Diffusion MRI studies to inform planning of thalamotomy for tremor.

  • Multicentre trial of surgery for anorexia nervosa.

  • Patient expectations and surgical outcome after functional neurosurgery.

  • Further trials of Exenatide in PD.

  • Tracking Parkinson’s: The long-term development and analysis of the Parkinson’s repository of biomarkers and networked datasets.

  • The role of DBS in Tourette syndrome.

  • Closed-loop stimulation and short pulse width STN DBS: effects on speech and motor outcome.

  • The nature, incidence and predictors of falls in people with Parkinson’s disease after deep brain stimulation - An observational study (Audrey Schembri).


 Current Clinical Trials

  • A double-blind, randomized crossover comparison of short pulse width versus conventional pulse width deep brain stimulation (DBS) in Parkinson’s disease patients with previously implanted DBS systems.

  • A Phase I/II Safety and Dose Evaluation Study of OXB-102 in Patients with Bilateral Idiopathic Parkinson’s Disease.

  • A randomized, double blind, parallel group, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial of Exenatide once weekly over 2 years as a potential disease modifying treatment for moderate severity Parkinson's disease.

  • A Multicentre, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study, with an Active-Treatment Dose-Blinded Period, to Evaluate the Safety, Pharmacokinetics, and Pharmacodynamics of BIIB054 in Subjects with Parkinson’s Disease.

  • A phase II, placebo controlled, double blind, randomised clinical trial to assess the safety and tolerability of 30 mg/kg daily Ursodeoxycholic Acid (UDCA) in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD).

  • An open label study to assess the safety and efficacy of neural allotransplantation with foetal ventral mesencephalic tissue in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

  • Modified target for ventral tegmental area DBS for trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia.

  • Microvascular decompression in SUNCT.


Research Funding

  • Brain Research Trust

  • Cure Parkinson’s Trust

  • Janet Owens Clinical Research Fellowship

  • John Black Charitable Foundation

  • Michael J Fox Foundation

  • National Institute of Health Research (NIHR)

  • NIHR University College London Hospital Biomedical Research Centre (BRC)

  • Parkinson's UK

  • Rosetrees Trust

  • Royal College of Surgeons, England.

  • The Edmond J Safra Philanthropic Foundation

  • The National Brain Appeal

  • UK Centre for Nurse and Midwife Led Research

  • UK Medical Research Council