MRI scan, close-up

Neurobiology research

Explore our work in neurobiology, one of our areas of expertise within Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Biomedical Sciences

Mental health and neurological disorders have an enormous impact on people of all ages around the world. Combined, they’re responsible for a high percentage of the disability-adjusted life-years lost due to premature death or disability (DALY) among European men and women – 23% and 30% respectively.

Our neurobiology research explores the structural and molecular makeup and the difference between how healthy and diseased nervous systems function. We’re researching the biology of neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders to understand more about the interaction between molecular (genetic, epigenetic) and environmental (stress, toxins) factors that cause these conditions to manifest.

By understanding the biology of neuropsychiatric conditions – such as seizures, depression, and migraines – we can help develop more effective treatments for patients and deliver positive knock-on effects to society and the economy. The outputs of our research can make the National Health Service (NHS) a more efficient and cost-effective organisation, stimulating innovation to further enhance the UK economy and improving patients' quality of life.

In one of our current research projects, we're studying the neuroanatomical, immune and functional characteristics of the intestine to unravel the discrete features of the enteric nervous system. Through this work, we want to better comprehend the mechanisms behind the gastrointestinal dysfunction experienced by a large proportion of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease and chronic stress. We’re also investigating the molecular mechanisms behind the initiation of brain tumours, the effects of demyelination in multiple sclerosis, and the cognitive decline associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Our research focuses on the following topics

  • Biomarkers
  • Cell biology
  • Cell signalling
  • Cell signalling
  • Drug delivery
  • Epigenetics
  • Molecular diagnostics
  • Molecular medicine
  • Neuro-oncology
  • Genetic medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Brain tumours
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Ageing
  • Neuroscience
  • Preclinical testing
  • Ion channel biophysics

Funders and collaborations

Our research has been funded by major national and international organisations, such as the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Alzheimer’s Society, Parkinson’s UK, and Innovate Pharmaceuticals Ltd. We collaborate with these and other industry and academic partners on research and knowledge-sharing projects. In some cases, we work with our partners to develop novel therapeutic agents, technologies and diagnostic tools.

Brain Tumour Research, a national charity in the UK, fund our Brain Tumour Research Centre, which aims to develop novel and multi-targeted brain tumour therapies. We're characterising the peculiar features of brain tumours that make them particularly malignant and challenging to treat, and developing new drugs and new ways to deliver drugs to the right place in the brain, where natural barriers such as the blood-brain barrier have to be crossed.

Many of our academic staff members have global reputations within their fields, such as Geoff Pilkington (brain tumours), Darek Gorecki (Duchenne muscular dystrophy), Jerome Swinny (gut and brain) and Arthur Butt (glial cell biology). Our work is also frequently published in publications such as Neuropharmacology, the Journal of Neuroscience and Neurochemical Research.

Facilities and methods

We have exceptional facilities that are central to our research, including our microscopy suite; imaging systems for molecular and cellular specimens; real-time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) machines for gene expression; a bioresources unit with transgenic and knockout models for pre-clinical and in vivo studies; an Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer for detailed nucleic acid quality control; and facilities for protein separation, liquid and solid phase purification and immunoblotting.

We use our facilities to practice various approaches and methodologies, including omics (transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics), molecular and biochemical methods, immunolocalisation with integrative microscopy (confocal to X-ray to electron microscopy), cell and organ culture, gene modifications, and transgenic animals as appropriate models of human diseases.

Publication highlights

Discover our areas of expertise

Neurobiology is one of our five areas of expertise in the Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Biomedical Sciences research area. Explore the others below.

Molecular mechanisms of diseases

We're exploring the molecules and molecular processes that cause diseases, and working to develop better treatments.

Molecular structure model
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Clinical Microbiology

We're researching how microbes can cause infectious diseases and benefit human health, and tackling antibiotic resistance by identifying new molecules in pathogenic microbes.

Microbiome rendering
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Pharmacy Practice

We're working to improve the practices, selection, use and disposal of pharmaceuticals to protect the environment, and we're promoting the vital role pharmacists can play in delivering better care to patients.

Close up of nursing student handling pharmaceuticals
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Interested in a PhD in Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Biomedical Sciences?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Biomedical Sciences postgraduate research degrees page.