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Dr Elena Dreosti
Rockefeller Building, UCL
Gower Street
Dr Elena Dreosti profile picture
  • Senior Research Fellow
  • Cell & Developmental Biology
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences

Elena Dreosti graduated in 2006 with a first-class degree in Medical Biotechnology and Cellular neuroscience from the University of Trieste (Italy). During her internship in the lab of Enrico Cherubini at the ISAS of Trieste, she discovered her passion for neuroscience research. Therefore, she moved to Cambridge (UK) to carry out her PhD studies with Leon Lagnado at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Here she focused on understanding how visual stimuli are processed within the retina of zebrafish animals, and she developed the first generation of genetically encoded calcium indicators to monitor synaptic activity, SyGCaMP. 

She was then awarded with a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship to work in the labs of Emre Yaksi in Leuven (Belgium), Michael Orger in Lisbon (Portugal) and Steve Wilson at UCL (London, UK). During this time she demonstrated that vertebrate brains are endowed with functional asymmetries, and different hemispheres can process different information similarly to human brains.

In 2016 she started her independent research group as Wellcome Trust & Royal Society Sir Henry dale Fellow at UCL, and she is pioneering the use of zebrafish to study social behaviour in health and disease. 

Her passion for training the new generation of scientists led her to join the Cajal Advanced Neuroscience Training Programme in 2020, and to become in 2022 the Executive Director of the programme. During this time she has developed a new series of highly scalable and hands-on courses on fundamentals of neuroscience called the NeuroKits

Research Summary

We spend most of our lives together with other people. We constantly seek the company of others. Our feelings and our choices  are constantly influenced by the behaviours of our family, friends, and even strangers. This is because our brains are hardly wired to connect with other people. 

Our lab is interested to understand what are the social circuits that underlie this strong and innate social drive in health and disease by using zebrafish. 

Social drives are a conserved feature of all social animals and, therefore, we can use zebrafish to characterise the social brain areas that processes social stimuli. Juvenile zebrafish show a large repertoire of social behaviours and are also amenable of optical and genetical techniques. This allow us to image and modify neural activity of single cells throughout the whole brain.

Currently we are studying: 

- what happens to our brains when we are socially deprived

- how social behaviour can be modulated by other sensory modalities, such as painful stimuli

- why some of us are more resilient than others to social deprivation.

- how specific genes found mutated in neurological diseases such as autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, alter social behaviour. 

Teaching Summary

During her Post Doc, Dr. Dreosti has taught animal behavioural techniques at the “Transylvania Experimental Neuroscience Summer School (TENSS, Romania) for few years, and at the Cajal Behavioural Neuroscience Summer School (CNP Lisbon). She has also been a course Instructor at the MBL Zebrafish Genetics and Development course (Woods Hole, USA)

She has also developed a new Module called "Social neuroscience of animal model systems". 
She has also been developing courses for PhD students together with the Cajal Advanced Neuroscience Training Programme.

AUG-2016 – JAN-2023 Wellcome Trust & Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellow WIBR UCL, United Kingdom
OCT-2011 – JUL-2016 Sir Henry Wellcome Trust Postoctoral Fellow Cell and Developmental Biology UCL, United Kingdom
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