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Cambridge Biosciences DTP PhD Programme


Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience


Project Title:

Heterogeneity and plasticity of dopaminergic neurons

Project Summary:

For a long time it was assumed that dopamine neurons were all much the same as each other, but modern techniques have revealed huge variation in gene expression, morphology and physiology. This variation is called heterogeneity, and acknowledging heterogeneity is important not just for fundamental neuroscience, but also for understanding disease.
The majority of dopamine research is focussed on the midbrain due to its involvement in Parkinson’s disease but a particularly interesting – and little studied – population resides in the olfactory bulb. These neurons are unusual in several ways: they are exceptionally plastic; some don’t even have an axon; and most unusual of all, some can regenerate in adult life. 
It is these weird and wonderful dopamine neurons of the olfactory bulb that I am particularly interested in. I will investigate their connectivity (who are they talking to, and who is telling them what to do?), their physiology (how exactly are they communicating?), their plasticity (how good are they at adapting over time based on their environment?), and finally, their behavioural impact (what is the role of these for an animal in the real world?)
By comparing these neurons within the bulb, and not just to each other but also with those more famous dopamine neurons of the midbrain, we can understand what makes the regenerating dopamine neurons different, and begin to consider their application as a regenerative therapy.




Teaching and Supervisions

Research supervision: 

Dr Elisa Galliano

Staff Photo

Job Titles

PhD Student