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We are dedicated to testing and developing new ways of improving treatments for psychiatric disorders, and maintaining brain health during aging. A significant proportion of people suffering from disturbances of mood and memory, do not respond to the available medication, and so there is an urgency to supplement or provide an alternative to current therapies.

Image shows a pill capsule with a strand of DNA molecule inside. ©

The aim of the Neurobiology and Experimental Therapeutics group is to use basic science to test the validity of novel therapies for psychiatric and age-related disorders.  We use molecular, pharmacological and nutritional approaches to manipulate key molecules and pathways (particularly serotonin and glutamic acid)  in healthy and experimental models, and investigate their subsequent benefits on brain function and behaviour.  To ensure our goals are met, we have extensive collaborations within and outside Oxford that provides us with state-of-the-art technology and expertise from several relevant disciplines.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.Lao Tzu, Sixth Century Chinese Philosopher




We are currently investigating the potential cognitive enhancing effects of the amino acid D-alanine, which stimulates the glutamic acid N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, a key player in healthy brain function. Cognitive deficits that occur in schizophrenia are difficult to treat with conventional medication, and are thought to result from the decreased function of the NMDA receptor in the brain. We are therefore, testing if D-alanine can be used to treat reduced cognition in schizophrenia, with a view to extending its use to maintain healthy cognitive performance during aging. Since D-alanine is of microbial origin, we are also investigating how gut bacteria affect brain function, and whether they can improve the efficacy of psychotropic drugs. Our approach is to preferentially grow the ‘good’ bacteria (lactobillus, bifidobacterium) with prebiotics (nutrients for bacteria), and then assess if emotional processing and memory function are improved. Finally, the role of the immune system in gut bacteria-brain interactions  are also being explored. A lot of people feel ‘low’ or anxious after an infection, and so we are testing if prebiotics can prevent both infection and mood changes.

Our team

Selected publications

Related research themes