Dr Neil DawsonSenior Lecturer
My research interests are focused on further understanding the mechanisms through which genetic and environmental risk factors for psychiatric, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disease impact on brain functioning, behaviour and cognition. I also have a primary interest in developing and validating translational preclinical models for these disorders for utilization in the drug discovery process, in the hope that we can use these models to identify novel drugs to treat these disorders.
My current research projects include:-
- Understanding the mechanisms through which genetic and environmental risk factors for psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, alter brain and neurotransmitter system functioning, and also how these impact on cognition and behaviour
- Understanding the mechanisms through which genetically determined alterations in serotonin transporter expression alter the likelihood of developing depression and other affective disorders
- Applying network science and related algorithms to functional brain imaging data gained in a preclinical context to further understand how brain functioning is altered in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders
Work in my laboratory is focused on utilizing preclinical models based on aetiologically relevant genetic and environmental risk factors for psychiatric, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases to further understand the mechanisms through which these risk factors impact on the brain, behaviour and cognition. This includes elucidating how these risk factors impact on the connectivity of brain networks and on connectivity between the different neural subsystems within the brain. My work also aims to elucidate how these risk factors impinge on the functioning of neurotransmitter systems known to be dysfunctional in these disorders. In addition, using these preclinical models we aim to validate novel drugs for the treatment of these diseases by assessing the ability of these compounds to reverse the deficits in brain function, connectivity and behaviour seen in these models.
I currently teach on the following modules:
BIOL 121 - Anatomy and Tissue Structure (module organiser)
BIOL 284 - Practical Physiology (module organiser)
BIOL 332 - Neurobiology
BIOL 461 – Fundamental Research Skills
BIOL467 - Drug Development: from concept to clinic
I was appointed as a Lecturer in Biomedicine with the Faculty of Health and Medicine in September 2013. My background is in Neuroscience (B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D., University of Edinburgh) but more recently my research has involved the application of mathematical algorithms to complex biological data sets, including brain imaging and metabolomics data, to gain greater insight into how these biological systems are disrupted in psychiatric, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.
PhD Supervision Interests
I am able to supervise students undertaking both Masters and PhD research projects in the fields of systems neuroscience, translational drug discovery and behavioural neuroscience.