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New B-Neuro Team member

We are delighted to announce that Idil Mitsadali is returning to b-neuro (maternity cover) as a research technician, starting 1st November.

Idil carried out her MSci Neuroscience project with us last year, studying the effects of exercise in the scPCP model.

Four Go to Cambridge

Emily Williams and Katie Landreth

As early career members of the BAP, we were excited to be able to attend this year’s Non-Clinical Certificate in Psychopharmacology, which took place in Cambridge from 8th to 12th of March. We work as research technicians for b-neuro, conducting cognitive and behavioural tests using our rodent model for schizophrenia. This course presented an opportunity for professional development in the field of psychopharmacology, through a series of interesting and interactive training modules.

The modules provided a broad overview of the various aspects of non-clinical psychopharmacology research. The statistics lecture by Simon Bate and the animal model lectures by Sarah Bailey and Maddy King were of particular interest as they linked directly to the work we conduct on a day-to-day basis, covering topics such as how to calculate sample size using InVivoStat, and what makes a robust and translational animal model, respectively. It was also a great opportunity to learn about topics and techniques which we don’t work with directly, such as the neurobiology and behaviour of marmosets, presented by Hannah Clarke, and neuroimaging techniques, presented by Mitul Mehta.

A highlight of the course was the group presentation, with each group putting together a fellowship proposal based on a fictional gene mutation which had been linked to schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. The group project was a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with other researchers, and it was really interesting to see how each group approached the proposal based on their own backgrounds and research interests. For the project, we combined our existing knowledge with information we had learned throughout the course to present our hypothesis, planned methodologies and expected findings to our peers and the panel of tutors.

L-R: Jess Brown (PhD student), Katie Landreth (b-neuro technician), Emily Williams (b-neuro technician), Jarred Lorusso (PhD student)

Certificates were presented at Queen’s College alongside a 3-course meal in a historic University building on our final evening. The opportunity to visit Cambridge and explore was a great perk of this residential trip, and the course organisers took advantage of the city’s prestigious history and academic influence by putting together tours for the following day, with the option to visit either the University of Cambridge’s animal research facility or Addenbrooke’s hospital imaging facility - we chose to visit the animal research facility. It was fascinating to see the animal unit and to learn about the different types of research currently being conducted, and how this compared to our facilities at the University of Manchester.

The BAP Non-Clinical Certificate gave us a an excellent opportunity to network with researchers who work in similar areas to ourselves, and to find out about other areas of non-clinical research being conducted in the UK, as well as the importance of this work and its translation into clinical research. It was a really engaging week, providing opportunities to learn about past, present and future psychopharmacology research, and to discuss the challenges and opportunities as a research technician in this field. It was brilliant to hear from a number of knowledgeable lecturers who provided insight into their area of expertise in their talks, and to have discussions with them about various related topics during breaks and over lunch.

We are thankful to the British Association for Psychopharmacology, and in particular to Liz Tunbridge and Lynne Harmer, for organising and running this year’s sessions, as well as adapting the course and tours due to COVID-19 related problems. We would also like to thank Professor Neill and b-neuro for funding our places on the course and enabling us to expand our knowledge and skill sets for our careers in non-clinical psychopharmacology. We are delighted to have been introduced to a community of scientists who have dedicated their careers to psychopharmacology research and we hope to see you all in Manchester for the 2021 Summer Meeting!

Aerobic exercise enhances cognition in rats

Masters student, Idil Mitsadali's exercise study has just been published!

Areobic exercise enhances cognition in rates, by Idil Mitsadali

We have shown that aerobic exercise in rats improves cognition and prevents the scPCP-induced deficit in cognition, as shown in this graphical abstract. Read the full paper for full details.

Harry goes to Parliament!!

Final year PhD student Harry Potter presented his research on the role of the maternal environment in a rat model of schizophrenia at the 2020 STEM for Britain event. The annual event, previously known as SET for Britain, took place on 9th March in the House of Commons during British Science week. Attracting about 100 MPs each year, STEM for Britain is described as an event which aims “to raise the profile of Britain's early-stage researchers at Westminster by engaging Members of both Houses of Parliament with current science, engineering and mathematics research being undertaken in the UK”.

Read the STEM report on Jeff Smith MP's website

Cognition in schizophrenia

1st year PhD student Jess Brown has published her first scientific communications article, explaining the importance of developing treatments for cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. This is, in fact, the subject of her PhD: Development of novel and selective glutamate receptor modulators for the treatment of cognitive impairment in schizophrenia. Jo and Mike are her Manchester supervisors, with Richard Ngomba at Lincoln. Watch this space for her latest results and more publications!

Harry wins a bursary

Harry Potter, b-neuroWell done, Harry, for being awarded a bursary to enable him to attend the Mechanisms and Evolution of Intergenerational Change in Cambridge this week. He will be presenting a talk and poster:

The prenatal maternal response to immune activation predicts offspring cognitive dysfunction in a rat model of schizophrenia.

...and winning a runner-up poster prize as a result!

Harry wins a poster prize

Life After b-neuro

life after b-neuro“After completing my PhD under the supervision of Professor Neill, and while working for b-neuro, I will start a postdoc position in New York at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in September 2019. My research will be focusing on the identification of neural circuits in parental behaviour and how they respond to stress, using in vivo calcium imaging, behavioural assays and molecular imaging.”
Giovanni Podda

“I am now a post-doctoral research associate working with Dr Samuel Barnes in the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) at Imperial college London. We use a combination of in-vivo calcium imaging, electrophysiological and behavioural techniques to investigate the dynamics of homeostatic neural plasticity in aging and neurodegeneration”.
Nazanin Doostdar

Drug Science

In an exciting new development, Jo has been appointed a committee member of Drug Science. Jo is investigating how scheduling restrictions for currently illegal drugs are hindering scientific research.

See our recent publication Restrictions on drugs with medical value: Moving beyond stalemate, following a survey of BAP members.

Information on trial results of psilocybin for mental health disorders and its mechanism of action can be found at Psilocybin for Mental Health.

BAP 2019

We presented our latest findings at BAP 2019, in sunny Manchester in July. We showcased our work on the beneficial effects of exercise and environmental enrichment, and of novel KV3.1/3.2 modulators in our rat model for schizophrenia symptomatology. We also showed exciting new results with our rat maternal immune activation model and investigations into the pharmacological modulation of attention. See the posters…

Photographs courtesy of BAP

Jo with Jeff Smith MPOne of the highlights of BAP 2019 was the welcome address by Jeff Smith, Labour MP for Manchester Withington. Jeff is chair of the APPG for drug law reform, and recently launched the Labour campaign for drug law reform with fellow MP, Thangam Debonnaire.

b-neuro at BAP 2019, photo 1Jo with world cannabinoid expert Prof Roger Pertwee, immediately prior to the symposium, Novel therapeutic uses of cannabinoids.

b-neuro at BAP 2019, photo 2Jo chaired the NC3R's supported non-clinical session on Sunday 14th July, PsychophaRRRmacology - enhancing research outcomes by applying the 3Rs

b-neuro at BAP 2019, photo 3Jo chaired the second short orals session From connections to cells and back again. These are short talks selected on the strength of the presenter's abstract, also displayed as posters at the meeting.

b-neuro at BAP 2019, photo 4Nagi was delighted to have his work on the Autifony programme selected to be presented as a talk and a poster. His short orals session was called Social and emotional cognition.

Street Drugs Events

Since Jo organised the first in this series, Street Drugs in the Northern Powerhouse, there have been 2 more events. The first, Street Drugs in the Big Smoke, was held at London Metropolitan University on 1st November 2018, hosted by Dr James Morgan. Read their write-up, London Met hosts Innovative Drugs Policy conference.

The second, Is the Dragon Still Smoking? Street Drugs Wales, was held at the University of South Wales in Cardiff on 25th June 2019, hosted by Barod and Kaleidoscope. Read Barod's write-up, Street Drugs Conference Wales 2019: Is the Dragon Still Smoking?

The next Street Drugs symposium will be held on 23rd January 2020 in Bristol. Details to follow.

Street Drugs in the Northern Powerhouse

Street Drugs symposium posterIn March this year, Jo organised a one-day symposium for the public on street drugs: “Street Drugs in the Northern Powerhouse: Perspective & Policy”, where we heard from experts in the field about ground-breaking work on harm reduction and the argument for regulation of street drugs.

Find out more from the following links: