In the thick of it
- Mann Group Research Group
Voltage-sensitive dye imaging of association vs sensory cortices
DPhil Candidate in Neuropharmacology
My D.Phil thesis is focused on the use of electrophysiology and the optical imaging technique of voltage-sensitive dye imaging (VSDI) in investigating the meso-scale processes of brain organisation under different pharmacological treatment. These include, but are not limited to: Apomorphine (Dopamine agonist) Amphetamine (monoaminergic blocker/releaser), specific Dopamine receptor blockers and Bicucculine (GABAa receptor blocker) which allow the investigation of the nature, function and modality of the 'neuronal assemblies' (propagating waves of activity, which activate and disband in fractions of a second) as seen in the orbitofrontal/pre-frontal cortex in Wistar rat brain (Agranular Insular). Additionally, direct comparison of cortical processing between different cortices (such as orbitofrontal and sensory barrel cortices) is also being undertaken showing interesting discrepencies which are not necessarily evident when taking in account the underlying neuroanatomy alone. Future endeavours include investigating thalamo-cortical communication between the VPN and barrel field cortex (which communicates sensory information from the whiskers to the cortex) in the presence of different anaesthetics which act to 'disconnect' this pathway by different mechanisms: propofol (GABAa receptor potentiator), ketamine (NMDA receptor blocker) and dexmedetomidine (Alpha-2 adrenoceptor agonist). Such research will have important implications for clinical anaesthesia, where the emerging consensus is that there are too many occurances of 'Accidental Awareness during General Anaesthesia' (AAGA) - which can be a traumatic experience and lead patients to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Further research may yet involve the application of psychedelic drugs such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and mescaline on this same, sensory, thalamo-cortical pathway in order to compare the effects induced by such sensory-enhancing drugs with those incurred by anaesthetics (which all produce the disconnection of this sensory pathway).
The mechanisms by which the brain, this gelatin-like and chaotic organ, produces functional electrical activity correlated with sensory stimulus and response in order to generate conscious perception of self has, since a very young age, stimulated my interest in neuroscience, and by extension: science in general. Furthermore, the mechanisms by which psychoactive drugs produce greatly distinct and divergent changes in the brain's generation of (self-)consciousness and behaviour have further fueled my desire to turn my studies into my carreer. By studying the way such substances affect cortical processing and reponse generation, one can not only hope to help broaden the research concerning intricate brain functioning, but also help bring a better understanding of addiction and associated care.
After graduating from the International School of Brussels in 2006, I started a BSc in Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, which I completed in 2010. It wasn't until I did my thesis in Prof. David Wyllie's lab at the center for Integrative Physiology in George Square that I became convinced I was able to take my love of science further - to the next level. I then came to the University of Oxford in February 2011 to request an internship in Prof. Susan Greenfield's lab. At the end of this internship, I applied for my DPhil, which I started in October 2012.