We adopt a ‘bench to bedside’ approach to study the basis of neuropsychiatric, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Our approach is theoretically guided by the principles of precision medicine, i.e., that understanding the biology of these disorders will help develop individualised treatments for patients. Our approaches broadly span experimental psychopharmacology, affective neuroscience and molecular genetics.
- Basic neural and behavioural biology
In our basic research, we use zebrafish as a model species try to understand the biology of neuropsychiatric (eg impulsive/compulsive disorders), neurodevelopmental (eg foetal alcohol spectrum disorders), and neurodegenerative disorders (eg Alzheimer's disease). We exploit recent developments in behavioural testing of adult zebrafish (many pioneered during Matt Parker's time working at Queen Mary University of London) to study gene x environment interactions in the development of behavioural abnormalities, and use a range of experimental psychopharmacological approach to test our hypotheses. We also have developed behavioural tools that allow for fast effective screening of adult fish for learning and memory. Our goal in our zebrafish work is to understand the behavioural biology of the species in order to use it to its full capacity as a model in behavioural neuroscience. This work is supported by grants from CAPES foundation (Brazil), Alzheimer's Research UK, and the University of Portsmouth. Finally, we carry out basic research on effects on behaviour and neural systems of fish and invertebrate following exposure to environmental pollutants and toxins. This work is done in collaboration with the Institute of Marine Sciences and Portsmouth, and is funded by the EU (INTERREG) and by the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (Nigeria).
We are interested in the interactions between impulsivity, risk-taking (personality) and (environmental) stress on alcohol use and misuse. In particular, we have found that healthy individuals that are categorised as 'risk-takers' (through psychometric tests) are more likely to crave and drink more alcohol when they experience stress. We are looking into the mechanisms that underlie this propensity, and how being a 'low risk taker' might provide resilience against stress-induced drinking. We are involved with work at Queen Alexandra Hospital (Portsmouth) working with high-risk recreational drinkers to look at personality and genetic markers of risky drinking. This work is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Foundation for Liver Research.
- Compulsive/stereotypic behaviour in captive/domestic animals
We have been involved for some time in the study of compulsive stereotypic behavioural patterns in captive/domestic/laboratory animals. We are interested in the development of stereotypic behaviour, including why some animals are more at risk, and how environmental conditions affect some animals in this manner. Our research has suggested that these behaviours may manifest as a result of restrictive environmental conditions and alterations in ascending dopamine pathways (e.g., see this review). This work is currently supported by the University of Portsmouth (internal PhD research studentship).
Our approach is theoretically guided by the principle that understanding the biology of neuropsychiatric conditions will help develop more effective treatments for patients.
We are always interested in hearing from potential PhD or MRes students, and have a variety of projects available.
Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have a great idea for a project that fits with our interests!