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 Rémi Ronzano
I hold a BSc in biology and health sciences (2015, Ecole Normale Superieure Paris-Saclay) and a MSc in neurosciences (2018, Ecole Normale Superieure Paris-Saclay and Sorbonne University). During my MSc, I took an additional year to carry out a 10-month internship in the laboratory of Prof Brownstone at UCL to study the anatomical organization of premotor circuits throughout the spinal cord. After my MSc, I obtained a doctoral scholarship to pursue a PhD at the Brain Institute in Paris (2018-2022). During my PhD, I studied microglia-neuron interactions at the node of Ranvier and the formation of nodal domains in myelination and remyelination. In 2022, I was awarded of an early-career Wellcome Trust fellowship to carry out my postdoc, hosted by the Brownstone and Beato laboratories, and in collaboration with the MDC institute in Berlin.
My current work focus on the description of spinal premotor neuron populations coordinating muscle synergies. The aim of this project is to shed light on the identity of these neurons, their molecular, anatomical and physiological features as well as their functions in motor behavior.
Dr Filipe Nascimento
I completed a degree in Biochemistry at the Faculty of Sciences from the University of Porto which was followed by a Masters in Neurosciences at the Faculty of Medicine from the University of Lisbon. I then pursued a PhD at the University of St Andrews under the supervision of Prof Gareth Miles, where I studied the cellular mechanisms of intraspinal cholinergic interneurons involved in the modulation of locomotor output. After that, I moved to University College London to work with Prof Marco Beato on the study of synaptopathies in recurrent spinal circuits in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). In 2021 I started a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, hosted by the Brownstone Lab and in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen.
My current work focuses on understanding the time-course of changes in well-defined spinal microcircuits in ALS, by using a variety of different techniques, such as in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, transcriptomics and behavioural assays. The insights from this ongoing study may have important translational implications, such as 1) establishing early detection criterion that could help to define effective therapeutic windows and 2) the time-course of alterations in spinal microcircuits can be used as biomarkers to define, stratify and monitor studies aimed at assessing the efficiency of new drugs in both animal models and in human clinical trials.
Dr Gorkem Ozyurt
Following the Erasmus training in Magdeburg, Germany about the intracellular signaling pathways involved in neuronal differentiation and completion of my BSc at Bioengineering Department about the development of a 3D co-culture model of the blood-brain barrier in vitro, I moved to Koç University for my Ph.D. research (2014-2019).
My Ph.D. focused on human experiments to investigate the spinal recurrent inhibitory network, modulation of H-reflex in spinal cord injury, and corticospinal inputs on motoneurons using various tools including transcranial magnetic stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation, whole-body vibration, and intramuscular EMG recordings. We optimised a technique to investigate the properties of Renshaw cells in healthy participants and patients with ALS using stimulus-evoked alterations in motor unit discharge properties. Besides, I was involved in a project where we aimed to compare the clinical electrophysiological tool to estimate the number of motor units in the muscle, to the actual count of motor axons in the mixed nerve in the ALS model of SOD1 G93A rats.
In the Beato & Brownstone Labs, I investigate the recurrent excitatory and inhibitory pathways using various in vitro preparations and CTb labelling. I am also involved in a project to explore the changes in spinal inhibitory networks in ALS mouse models. Moreover, I aim to understand the predictive inhibitory inputs that modulate the sensory prediction error fed to motor circuits by spinal comparator neurons, such as dI3 interneurons, as a Royal Society Newton International Fellow.
Dr Amanda Pocratsky
Dr Ammar Natalwala
I joined the Brownstone lab in February 2021 as a NIHR clinical lecturer in Neurosurgery. Prior to this, I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellowship and completed a stem cell research PhD at the University of Edinburgh. My work focussed on molecular mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease (PD). The PhD aim was to investigate two disease states of alpha-synuclein that confer the greatest clinical severity in familial PD. Alpha-synuclein is small protein that misfolds to cause Lewy deposits, the hallmark of PD. I developed both in vitro, pluripotent stem cell-derived, and in vivo, stereotaxic injection-based, models of PD to yield new insight into alpha-synuclein-mediated pathology.
My current work will focus on investigating neural circuit-specific deficits in dystonia, another debilitating movement disorder. I am interested in quantitative behavioural assessment of dystonic movement as well as anatomical and electrophysiological techniques to explore pathology in neuronal networks that culminate in abnormal motor function. I will complete my neurosurgical training at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and aim to subspecialise in functional neurosurgery. I am particularly interested in translating my work into clinical practice using deep brain stimulation, cell and gene therapy approaches to advance treatments for movement disorders that are currently deemed to be incurable.
Rsearch Assistants and PhD Students
Kim Dhillon, Research Assistant
Kay Clark, PA to Prof Rob Brownstone. Tel: +44 203 108 5460
Brownstone Lab Alumni
Post-Doctoral Fellows supervised:
|2016 - 2021||Ayisha Shabbir||Postdoctoral Researcher, University College London|
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
Academy of Medical Sciences