Neurobiology and Experimental Therapeutics
- +44 1865 223621 (fax +44 1865 251076)
Actively supporting public engagement in science
Funded by the BBSRC, MRC, Wellcome Trust, and Industry
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.
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.
- Investigating the effect of early-life prebiotic feeding on adult brain function, metabolism and microbial metagenomics
- Oxford Study of Prebiotics in Children (OxPiC)
- A study of the molecular, metabolic and psychological mechanisms underlying the psychotropic effects of minocycline
- The cognitive and metabolic effects of prebiotics in psychosis (PrePsy)
- Exploring the molecular neurobiology and psychopharmacology of D-amino acids
- Cerebellar molecular neuropathology and the microbiome in neurodegenerative disorders
- Prof Daniel Anthony (Pharmacology, Oxford)
- Prof David Bannerman (Experimental Psychology, Oxford)
- Dr Ben Gronier (School of Pharmacy, DeMontfort University)
- Prof Catherine Harmer (Psychiatry, Oxford)
- Prof Paul Montgomery (Social Policy and Intervention, Oxford)
- Prof Peter Oliver (DPAG, Oxford)
- Prof Philip Poole (Plant Sciences, Oxford)
- Prof Trevor Sharp (Pharmacology, Oxford)
- Prof Jeremy Spencer (School of Chemistry and Food Biosciences, Reading University)
- Prof Jon Swann (Imperial College, London)
- Dr George Tzortzis (Clasado Ltd)
- Prof Matthew Wood (Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Oxford)
- DPhil projects are now available for 2017 entry. Please contact Phil Burnet directly for project and application details.
- A BBSRC grant (2016-19) has been awarded to Phil, Jon Swann (Imperial), Ed Mann (DPAG) and Philip Poole (PS) to investigate the effects of early-life prebiotcs on adult brain function and gut microbial communities
- A Clasado Ltd grant (2016-2018) has been awarded to Phil, Liliana and Paul Montgomery (SPI) to study the effects of prebiotics on anxiety and cognition in school children.