|Tel||+44 (0)1865 223621|
|Fax||+44 (0)1865 793101|
BSc(Hons), MSc, PhD
Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies
My research focuses on ways to modulate brain chemistry so that its complex functions can be preserved or improved. In aging and psychiatric disorders, there is an impairment of cognition (memory, attention, problem solving abilities) and positive mood, and only some patients get well with the currently available medication. My work will ultimately offer either supplements or alternatives to contemporary treatments of psychiatric illness.
I am particularly interested in the serotonin and glutamic acid neurotransmitters systems, which are crucial for healthy brain development and well-being. A disturbance of these pathways has been implicated in psychiatric illness and in aging, and re-establishing their natural activity restores normal brain functions. I use several approaches to modify serotonin and glutamic acid actions, and then look at how this affects behaviour. To help me achieve this, I collaborate with researchers within and outside Oxford, and with Industry.
Understanding how neurotransmitters are regulated is an important step before methods to manipulate them can be developed. I have demonstrated altered levels of serotonin receptors in schizophrenia, and reported their complex modulation by treatments. In schizophrenia, I also found increased levels of brain D-amino acid oxidase (DAO), a modulator of glutamic acid activity. I have used a technique called RNA interference to reduce DAO, and have observed changes in glutamate receptors, which are essential for cognition. Therefore, decreasing DAO may be a treatment strategy to restore reduced cognition in schizophrenia, a benefit not provided by current therapies.
I am currently studying the effect of the periphery on brain biology, memory and mood. Diet and gut bacteria increase body levels of glutamate receptor stimulating amino acids. My research is now testing if these amino acids and intestinal microbes affect brain neurotransmission and behaviour. My goal is to find the best ways to help the treatment of psychiatric disorders, and maintain healthy brain function during aging. In addition to my research, I am the Director of Graduate Studies for Psychiatry, I teach on the MSc Neuroscience and MRCPsych courses, and I am on the editorial board of ‘Nutrition and aging’.
Gut bacteria and brain function: the challenges of a growing field.
Burnet PW., (2012), Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 109
D-amino acid oxidase knockdown in the mouse cerebellum reduces NR2A mRNA.
Burnet PW. et al, (2011), Mol Cell Neurosci, 46, 167 - 175
Prebiotic intake reduces the waking cortisol response and alters emotional bias in healthy volunteers
Schmidt K. et al, (2015), Psychopharmacology, 232, 1793 - 1801
Psychobiotics highlight the pathways to happiness.
Burnet PW. and Cowen PJ., (2013), Biol Psychiatry, 74, 708 - 709
d-Amino acid oxidase and serine racemase in human brain: normal distribution and altered expression in schizophrenia.
Verrall L. et al, (2007), Eur J Neurosci, 26, 1657 - 1669
Psychobiotics and the Manipulation of Bacteria-Gut-Brain Signals.
Sarkar A. et al, (2016), Trends Neurosci, 39, 763 - 781
Microbiome: Should we diversify from diversity?
Johnson KV. and Burnet PW., (2016), Gut Microbes, 7, 455 - 458
Neonatal prebiotic (BGOS) supplementation increases the levels of synaptophysin, GluN2A-subunits and BDNF proteins in the adult rat hippocampus.
Williams S. et al, (2016), Synapse, 70, 121 - 124
Prebiotic administration normalizes lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced anxiety and cortical 5-HT2A receptor and IL1-β levels in male mice.
Savignac HM. et al, (2016), Brain Behav Immun, 52, 120 - 131
The Influence of Prebiotics on Neurobiology and Behavior.
Kao AC. et al, (2016), Int Rev Neurobiol, 131, 21 - 48