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Prof David Attwell
1st floor
Andrew Huxley Building
UCL, Gower Street
  • Jodrell Professor of Physiology
  • Neuro, Physiology & Pharmacology
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences

David Attwell studied physics as an undergraduate in Oxford, and then did a PhD in neuroscience with Julian Jack. After a post-doc in Berkeley with Frank Werblin, he came to UCL.

Research Summary
Overview: Please visit my more up to date website: www.ucl.ac.uk/npp/da

In my lab we are interested in signalling between neurons and glial cells (oligodendrocytes, astrocytes and microglia), and in how the brain's energy supply is controlled and determines the computational power of the brain. Our studies of brain energy supply have characterized a new locus (in capillaries) for control of cerebral blood flow, have investigated how the amount of energy the brain receives determines the speed of the neural computations performed, and have studied the consequences of failure of the energy supply in conditions like stroke. Recent work on neural-glial signalling has focussed on how activation of glutamate and GABA receptors on oligodendrocytes may be responsible for the mental and physical disability occurring in white matter diseases such as cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury. Oligodendrocytes myelinate axons, and thus speed action potentials, but in pathological conditions like cerebral palsy, stroke, spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis oligodendrocytes are killed, leading to mental and physical handicap. As for the neuronal death that occurs in stroke (see below), part of this oligodendrocyte death occurs as a result of glutamate being released by reversal of uptake transporters. We are using patch-clamping and immunocytochemistry to study the glutamate-evoked death of oligodendrocytes. Recent findings include the discovery of NMDA receptor mediated currents in oligodendrocytes which play a role in damaging these cells in pathological conditions. Other work is investigating the physiological function of these receptors in controlling the development of oligodendrocytes. All of this work is performed using patch-clamp, calcium imaging and oxygen electrode techniques applied to brain slices and isolated cells, and using mathematical modelling.

Keywords: Glutamate, Demyelination, Electrophysiology, fMRI, Microglia,
Mitochondria, Multiple Sclerosis, Neural signalling, Neurodegeneration, Neural
Circuits/Networks, Neuroimaging, Oligodendrocytes, Progenitors, Stem cells

Conditions: Cerebral palsy, Ischaemic stroke , Leukodystrophies, Multiple sclerosis, Spinal cord injury , Stroke, Transient ischaemic attack

Methods: Brain slice physiology, Calcium imaging, Confocal microscopy, Computational modeling, Electrophysiological recording techniques, fluorescence microscopy techniques, Genetic manipulation (including knockout/knockin), Image analysis, Immunohistochemistry, Patch-clamp recording, Time-lapse imaging, Transgenic mice

Teaching Summary

I organise the 4 year PhD in Neuroscience at UCL, and give undergraduate lectures. Until recently I was Vice-Head of the Graduate School, the body overseeing graduate education at UCL, and was on UCL's Council.

Academic Background
1979 DPhil Doctor of Philosophy – Neuroscience University of Oxford
1975 BA Hons Bachelor of Arts (Honours) – Physiological Science University of Oxford
1974 BA Hons Bachelor of Arts (Honours) – Physics University of Oxford
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