From molecules to behaving animals: a short introduction from the Neuroscience group

Live 4D confocal imaging of rat hippocampal neurons transfected with
the photoswitchable fluorescent protein Dendra2, showing complex
neuronal networks between cells. Imaged by Adrian Szum

In our first contribution to this blog we would like to start by giving a short description of our research group. The Neuroscience group ( under the leadership of Professor Clive Bramham is comprised of a highly international group of people. We are currently 16 members from 10 different nationalities including 5 post-docs, 5 PhD students as well as master degree and medical students.

The core interest of the group lies in understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate the amazing ability of the brain to adapt and change in response to different types of stimuli. This phenomenon is also called synaptic plasticity. Depending on the type of stimuli (or lack of stimuli) the brain experiences the communication between nerve cells and neuronal networks can be either strengthen or weakened.

Synaptic plasticity is part of the natural process of storing and retrieving memories in the brain. It is known that defects in mechanisms involved in the fine regulation of synaptic plasticity contribute to disorders of the nervous system such as mental retardation and psychiatric disease.  A better understanding of synaptic plasticity is therefore key to the development of diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.

We are using a multidisciplinary approach to learn more about the plasticity of the brain. The methods that we use in our daily research include behavioural studies in rats (e.g. How does stress affect a mother rat and her offspring?), electrophysiological studies in live rats, advanced imaging techniques, protein-protein interactions and a range of molecular tools.

One focus of our research is a protein known as Arc (activity-regulated cytoskeleton regulated protein). Arc plays a critical role in the mechanism of memory, and dysfunction of Arc probably contributes to mental retardation, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Schizophrenia. We are now exploring the role of Arc in ADHD and other psychiatric disorders. If you want to know more about the protein Arc, you are welcome to take a look at a recent review paper from the lab.


Karin Wibrand, on behalf of the Neuroscience group