Our research team

Our team includes the centre directors, clinical researchers, pre-clinical researchers, research fellows, students and honorary staff.

Find out more about our team below.

Dr Richard Chin

Centre Director and Clinical Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Neuroscience

Richard Chin is a clinical paediatric neurologist with a particular interest in childhood onset epilepsy. His research aims to identify the causes and risk factors for epilepsy, develop better treatments, and to improve the quality of life of children and their families affected by epilepsy.

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Professor Mike Cousin

Centre Head of Pre-Clinical research. Chair of Neuronal Cell Biology

Mike Cousin is a cell biologist interested in the presynaptic function. His research involves exploring how neurotransmitter release is altered during elevated brain activity such as epileptic seizure by examining key molecules in preclinical models of human disease. 

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Dr Bonnie Auyeung

Chancellor's Fellow, University of Edinburgh

Bonnie Auyeung is a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh where her work is focused around two central themes: 1) the biological origins of neurodevelopmental and neurological conditions in children and 2) relieving the symptoms of these conditions which can cause difficulties in everyday life. Her interest in this subject stems from clinical and research experience at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute in her home city of Los Angeles. Before coming to Edinburgh, Bonnie completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre and has since published extensively on the effects of the prenatal environment on later brain and behavioural development.

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Dr Javier Escudero

Chancellor's Fellow

Chancellor's Fellow in Biomedical Signal Processing

Javier Escudero is a signal processing engineer with a particular interest in the dynamics of brain activity. His research aims to increase our understanding of how several brain diseases (including epilepsy) develop and progress, specifically in childhood and late life.

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Dr Jeni Harden

Senior Lecturer in Social Science and Health, and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships

Jeni's research aims to provide understanding of how young people, children and their carers and relatives experience epilepsy and epilepsy care, in order to bring to light areas of concern for families and to develop appropriate ways to support them.

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Dr Wayne WK Lam

Consultant Clinical Geneticist and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Clinical Genetics

Wayne Lam is a clinical geneticist and works with families with neurodevelopmental disorders. He has a life long interest in paediatric developmental disorders and acts as a medical advisor for Scottish neurocutaneous disorder charities. His current research looks at how large scale gene sequencing can impact on our understanding of these disorders.  

 

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Dr Martyn Pickersgill

Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Biomedical Ethics

Martyn Pickersgill is a medical sociologist with particular interests in neuroscience and neurology. His research explores the social, historical and ethical dimensions of biomedicine, placing research and clinical practices within their societal contexts.

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Dr Christopher Weir

Reader in Medical Statistics

Christopher Weir leads the statistical work of the Edinburgh Health Services Research Unit. His research interests include the design and analysis of cluster-randomised trials and the statistical methods for evaluating potential surrogate outcome measures in clinical trials.

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Dr Gashirai Mbizvo

Clinical Research Fellow in Neurology

Gashirai Mbizio is a Clinical Research Fellow in Neurology working on the Epilepsy Research UK funded case-control study on epilepsy related deaths in Scotland from 2009-2014.

 

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Ms Julie Woodfield

Neurosurgery ST and ECAT Clinical Lecturer

Julie Woodfield is undertaking a Wellcome Trust funded PhD examining whether the white matter characteristics of children undergoing epilepsy surgery are related to cognitive outcomes.  

 

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Dr Michael Yoong

Clinical Lecturer in Paediatric Neurosciences, RHSC (Edinburgh)

Dr Yoong is a Clinical Lecturer in Paediatric Neurology at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh. He is currently researching the use of advanced brain imaging techniques in children with epilepsy, in particular how they can be used to predict and monitor long term outcomes.

 

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Kyle Bennett

Medical Student

Kyle Bennett is a medical student working on an SSC4 project examining the role of structural MRI correlates and memory/cognition in children with CSE and healthy controls.

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Matthew Hunter

PhD Student

Matthew Hunter is conducting a research study investigating the effect of epilepsy on the neuropsychological development of preschool-aged children with newly diagnosed epilepsy. The aim is to better understand the ways in which epilepsy affects early psychological development and development and behaviour. Early identification of difficulties, and the factors that contribute to them, may lead to earlier treatments and interventions.

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Eli Kinney-Lang

PhD Student

Eli’s research focuses on using computational methods to characterize the developmental aspects of EEG for use in potential brain-computer interface (BCI) interventions for children with abnormal neurodevelopment.

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Rebecca Black (née Parry)

PhD Student

Rebecca Parry’s PhD research, Me and My Epilepsy, explores the everyday accounts of children (aged between 7 and 16 years) with active epilepsy and examines their involvement in the management of their condition in both formal and informal healthcare settings. The study utilises qualitative interviews, participatory tools, and observations of scheduled consultant appointments. It is anticipated that such insight into children’s own perspectives will provide the basis for better support interventions for children, their parents’ and medical professionals. 

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Dr Christopher Derry

Career Research Fellow, NHS Research Scotland

Chris is Consultant Neurologist and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in Neurology. He is an expert in adult epilepsy and his research programme is on sleep and epilepsy.

 

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Dr Susan Duncan

Consultant Neurologist and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in Neurology

Susan is clinical lead for adult epilepsy services in NHS Lothian and the South East of Scotland. An Edinburgh University graduate, her research areas include sex hormones in epilepsy and sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. 

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Dr Susan Kealey

Consultant Neuroradiologist, NHS Lothian

Susan regularly reviews paediatric neuroimaging for colleagues at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.  This includes patients within the South-East of Scotland epilepsy service and the national Scottish Paediatric Epilepsy Surgery Programme.

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Dr Zoe Morris

Consultant Neuroradiologist, NHS Lothian

Zoe regularly reviews and reports on paediatric neuroimaging for colleagues at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. This includes patients within the South-East of Scotland epilepsy service and the national Scottish Paediatric Epilepsy Surgery Programme.

 

 

Dr Ruth Sumpter

Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Institute of Neurological Sciences, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Ruth is clinical lead for INS Neuropsychology within the West of Scotland regional neurosciences service. She maintains clinical and research interests in both paediatric and adult Clinical Neuropsychology. She holds honorary contracts in relation to teaching and research commitments with the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow. Her research interests and publications include cognitive late effects in paediatric oncology/haematology, cognitive and psychosocial outcomes of acquired brain injury in childhood (including sleep and quality of life), and neuropsychological outcomes of early onset epilepsy.

 

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Dr Kirsten Verity

Consultant Paediatric Neuropsychologist, RHSC (Edinburgh)

Kirsten Verity is a Paediatric Neuropsychologist at RHSC, Edinburgh. She has a major interest in the impact of neurological conditions on cognitive, emotional and behavioural presentations in children and young people. Her aim is to improve outcome for this population by improving understanding of the neuropsychological profiles associated with conditions such as epilepsy.

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Dr Rachael Wood

Consultant in Public Health Medicine, Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer in Public Health Sciences

Rachael is Consultant in Public Health Medicine in the Information Services Division of NHS National Services Scotland where she is also clinical lead for the Women and Childrens Health Information Programme. Her research interests are in child public health.

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Professor Cathy Abbott

Chair of Mammalian Molecular Genetics

Cathy Abbott is a geneticist investigating the role of translation elongation factors in human disease. She is examining the effects of epilepsy-causing mutations in a gene called eEF1A2. The same eEF1A2 mutations can also cause autism and severe learning difficulties (see here).

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Dr. Emanuel Busch

Chancellor's Fellow, University of Edinburgh

Emanuel Busch is a neurobiologist investigating the electrical coupling of neural circuits in vivo, important for the generation of epileptic seizures but little understood in its function or regulation. He uses a small worm, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, as a powerful model to dissect electrical coupling in vivo with functional imaging, behavioural studies and genetics.

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Dr. Michael Daw

Lecturer

Michael Daw is a physiologist currently investigating the development of cortical synaptic physiology in a mouse model of childhood absence epilepsy. 

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Dr. Dies Meijer

Chancellor's Fellow

Dies Meijer is a cell biologist interested in how mutations in leucine-rich glioma inactivated glycoproteins are implicated in various forms of hereditary epileptic seizure. 

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Professor Matt Nolan

Reader

We use experimental and theoretical approaches to investigate how neural circuits carry out computations and how these circuits go wrong in brain disorders. For example, using large-scale simulations of neural circuits that we described experimentally, we recently discovered how changes in background activity in a neural circuit can lead to seizures.

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Dr. Iris Oren

Chancellor's Fellow

Iris Oren is a neurophysiologist interested in understanding the link between changes in GABAergic inhibition and network excitability in Alzheimer's disease. She uses a combination of in vitro electrophysiology and imaging, and in vivo EEG recording to elucidate functional changes to brain circuits.

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Dr. Emily Osterweil

Chancellor's Fellow

Emily Osterweil is a biochemist interested in how local protein synthesis impacts on plastic changes at the synapse in various neurodevelopmental disorders. Current research involves examining how alterations in local protein translation affect epileptic seizures in preclinical disease models. 

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Dr Karen Smillie

Lecturer

Karen Smillie is a cell biologist interested in how neurons communicate with each other and how this can lead to conditions such as epilepsy or neurodegeneration when this malfunctions.  Her lab uses induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) models as well as cultured primary neurons in combination with live-cell real time fluorescent imaging to investigate this. 

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Professor David Wyllie

Professor of Ion Channel Physiology and Pharmacology; Director, Centre for Integrative Physiology

David Wyllie is a neurophysiologist whose lab uses electrophysiological recording techniques to study synaptic function and dysfunction in pre-clinical models of epilepsy and neurodevelopmental disorders. 

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Professor David Wyllie

Professor of Ion Channel Physiology and Pharmacology; Director, Centre for Integrative Physiology

David Wyllie is a neurophysiologist whose lab uses electrophysiological recording techniques to study synaptic function and dysfunction in pre-clinical models of epilepsy and neurodevelopmental disorders. 

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Dr Steph Barnes

Postdoc

Steph is studying the role of protein synthesis downstream of the NMDA-type glutamate receptor in neurodevelopmental disorders. She is using a range of biochemical and physiological methods to understand how mRNA translation is controlled downstream of NMDA receptor activation, and how this can be targeted to treat Fragile X Syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis.

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Dr Elizabeth Davenport

Postdoc

Elizabeth is investigating the how mutations in the synaptic vesicle molecule CDKL5 precipitate epileptic encephalopathy. Specifically she is examining how CDKL5 controls neurotransmitter release and how to rescue / restore normal presynaptic function in the human disease.

 

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Dr Faith Davies

Postdoc

We know that small mutations in the gene eEF1A2, a part of the cell’s protein synthesis machinery, cause intellectual disability and epilepsy. Faith examines exactly how the cells of the brain are affected by genetically engineering neuronal cells to have the same mutations.

 

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Dr Elisabeth Fischer

Postdoc

Elisabeth's work focusses on the regulation of gap junction (GJ) plasticity in the oxygen sensing neurons of the nematode C. elegans. Increases of oxygen levels evoke strong behaviour in C. elegans like increase of velocity, aggregation and change of crawling direction. Controlled by tonic signalling of the oxygen sensory neurons URX, AQR and PQR, this behaviour shell serve as a platform to investigate the role and regulation of GJ plasticity in the oxygen sensory network. Calcium imaging, the measurement of GJ turnover by photo-convertible fluorescence proteins and investigation of GJ plasticity regulators in terms of oxygen level changes are some of the technics used to address this question.

 

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Dr Alfredo-Gonzalez Sulser

Postdoc

Alfredo is testing the use of a new technology, called optogenetics, to block seizures in an animal model of temporal lobe epilepsy by selectively controlling brain cells with light. I am evaluating strategies to selectively block seizures through optogenetic manipulation of the medial septum, a brain structure that sends connections specifically to seizure generating brain regions in temporal lobe epilepsy.

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Dr Derek Garden

Postdoc

Derek is investigating the functional organisation of networks of inhibitory interneurons in the medial entorhinal cortex. Disinhibition following damage to these interneurons is believed to be a major mechanism for initiation of seizures.

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Dr Callista Harper

Postdoc

Callista is investigating how phosphorylation of the synaptic vesicle molecule SV2A controls nerve terminal function and also seizure activity.

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Dr Susana Louros

Postdoc

Susana is focused on understanding how dysregulated protein turnover is specifically disrupted Autism Spectrum Disorders/Intellectual Disabilities. Using a range of biochemical methods, she is studying how the dynamics of proteostasis are altered in the brains of Fragile X Syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis mutant mice, and how manipulation of upstream signalling pathways can correct pathological changes. 

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Dr Sang Seo

Postdoc

Sang is studying the dynamic regulation of mRNA translation and ribosome trafficking in hippocampal slices prepared from Fragile X Syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis mutant mice. He is using a combination of molecular and imaging methods to investigate activity-driven changes in protein synthesis.

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Dr Sophie Thomson

Postdoc

Sophie is working to identify neuronal mRNAs that are aberrantly translated in mouse models of Fragile X Syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis using Translating Ribosome Affinity Purification and RNA-seq analyses. Her work aims to elucidate how dysregulation of mRNAs in specific neuron populations contributes to the pathology of neurodevelopmental disorders.

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Katherine Bonnycastle

PhD student

Katherine is investigating how mutations identified in genes encoding for presynaptic proteins in patients with both intellectual disability and epilepsy translate into altered synaptic function. 

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Jilly Hope

PhD Student

Jilly's project aims to help understand how mutations in eEF1A2 cause epilepsy, intellectual disability and autism. She has been modelling the learning and memory impairments and autistic features seen in patients.

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Nwamaka Idigo

PhD Student

Nwamaka is studying the role of eEF1A genes in zebrafish, with the ultimate aim of developing a model system for screening small molecules that might be useful in treatment of epilepsy caused by mutations in eEF1A2.

 

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Alexandros Kokotos

PhD Student

Alexandros is looking for new molecules that are essential for, and specific to, activity-dependent bulk endocytosis (ADBE). Identification of new molecules will allow investigations of the role of ADBE during seizure activity.

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Darryl Low

PhD Student

Darryl is investigating the function of the synaptic vesicle molecule SV2A, which is the target of the leading antiepileptic levetiracetam. Specifically he is examining how SV2A controls the trafficking of synaptotagmin-1, which is a molecule essential for neurotransmitter release.

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Fiona McLachlan

PhD Student

Fiona is using proteomics to find out how mutations in eEF1A2 affect its ability to interact with other proteins in the cell. This will help us to disentangle the role of eEF1A2 in epilepsy. 

 

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Melania Muscas

PhD Student

Melania is investigating the Ras-ERK pathway as a target for the treatment of Fragile X Syndrome and related neurodevelopmental disorders. She is using biochemical and systems-level approaches to test a promising new strategy involving cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

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Keir Shaffick-Richardson

PhD Student

Keir's project aims to elucidate changes in synaptic structure that underlie network dysfunction and seizures which occur in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. To this end, Keir applies techniques of immunohistochemistry and microscopy.

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Nathalie Vladis

PhD Student

Nathalie’s research interest focusses on how the electrical coupling of nerve cells is regulated. This coupling is mediated by electrical synapses, which play an important role in the generation of epileptic seizures. The coupling changes in epileptic episodes, but the reasons for this remain unclear. She uses the nematode worm C. elegans to unravel plasticity of electric coupling, and the molecular mechanisms that regulate it.

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