What is Bristol Neuroscience?

10 Questions for Bristol Neuroscience (BN)

1. What is Bristol Neuroscience?
BN is an umbrella organisation that supports and augments the quality, acumen and impact of neuroscience research across the Schools, Departments, Faculties and Hospitals of Bristol.

2. What is Bristol Neuroscience for?
BN empowers us to tackle big and important neuroscience, addressing fascinating questions that no individual lab or technique could answer – and that matter to all people. BN’s mission is “Brain research for better lives”.

3. How does BN do that?
By working as a team, providing oversight, planning direction, coordinating recruitment and targeting funding. We ensure that our team amounts to more than the sum of its parts, uniting people and nurturing a vibrant, diverse and supportive research culture. We make sure everyone can access information about what’s going on in BN, not least the public (check out the BN Festival, held every 2 years).

4. Aren’t loads of universities attempting all this stuff?
Many are, and rightly so: neuroscience continues to make huge advances, driven by an array of new technologies. Neuroscience is embedded in so much of life, from the algorithms running our smartphones to the psychology of childcare and new therapies for brain disorders.
Any institution serious about biomedical research must be serious about neuroscience.

5. Sounds complicated. You sure you’re not being over-ambitious?
Neuroscience is not alone in being challenging, slow and expensive. But it’s true that brains are unique in terms of their complexity – and potential.
There is still a vast amount we do not know about how brains work. Remember, though, that the neuroscience fiction of the 80s is now reality: we can measure, decode and manipulate genomes, neurons and behaviour to an unprecedented extent. By harnessing the right people, methods and focus, Bristol will continue to make leading-edge contributions to the field.

6. OK fine. So what actual neuroscience do you do?
We coalesce around 4 overlapping ‘Hubs’, each selected to reflect exciting science, important questions, established strengths and societal need: Mental Health; Memory; Movement and Sleep.

7. Those are important topics. What’s in a Hub?
Each Hub has a Lead and a Coordinating Core, chosen to reflect a range of experimental, clinical and computational expertise and to integrate across molecular, synaptic, circuit, systems, psychological and population levels of analysis. Individual neuroscientists contribute to projects bridging multiple Hubs.

For example, the Movement Hub encompasses the synaptic intricacies of the cerebellum, the mechanics of movement, flooring designed to minimise collisions in crowds and clinical trials for Parkinson’s disease. Movement links to the Sleep and Memory Hubs through projects detailing sleep-dependent motor memory, and REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder (which preludes Parkinson’s disease).

8. From synapse to society?
I couldn’t have put it better myself.

9. So what next?
BN has a clutch of at talented new recruits to introduce*. We held an event in September 2019 at which they each introduced their science and their plans. We have submitted, or will soon submit, major international collaborative funding bids (some with our friends in Cardiff), and will apply to become one of UoB’s next Specialist Research Institutes. And we’re chatting with local clinicians about Motor Neuron Disease and Paediatric Neurology, amongst other things.

Oh, and we were just awarded a BBSRC grant entitled ‘BrainSight’ to buy some really cool miniature (<3g) confocal microscopes.

10. Where are you going to stick them?
In brains – to decode the neural bases of Mental Health, Memory, Movement and Sleep.

* Paul Anastasiades (Lecturer, Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences); Michele Bellesi (Neuroscience Fellow, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience); Paul Chadderton (Reader, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience); Rui Ponte Costa (Lecturer, Department of Computer Science); Shamik Dasgupta (Vice-Chancellor's Fellow, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience); Luisa de Vivo (Neuroscience Fellow, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience); Paul Dodson (Lecturer, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience); Sean-James Fallon (Research Fellow, Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences); Hugh Piggins (Professor and Head of School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience); Lasani Wijetunge (Marie Curie Fellow, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience).

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