Dr James Hodge

Lab Overview

We are interested in how neural circuit activity underlies behaviour including circadian rhythms, sleep, memory and movement. We study these using molecular genetics, electrophysiology and optogenetics. We study the fundamental biology of behaviour and how they are affected by ageing, drugs and diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Down’s and schizophrenia.

Research Questions

1) Circadian rhythms and clock neuron excitability. How does light and temperature entrain the clock? How is time of day information communicated through the clock? What is the role of neuronal activity in circadian rhythms? What are the components of the membrane clock and how do they interact with the molecular clock?

2) Sleep and electrical activity in the brain. How is sleep regulated by circuits in the brain? What is the role of synaptic transmission and homeostasis in sleep? Which ion channels and receptors mediate sleep neuron electrophysiology and regulate sleep? Can sleep be artificially enhanced or suppressed?

3) How is neuronal excitability, circadian rhythms, sleep, memory and movement affected by ageing, drugs and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Down’s and schizophrenia. Can novel mechanisms be identified and lead to new drugs?

4) What effects do insecticides have on insect neuronal excitability, circadian rhythms, sleep, memory and movement. 


1) Electrophysiology. Whole cell current- and voltage-clamp of defined neurons recorded in the whole brain or in vivo. Synaptic recordings to measure transmission and plasticity. Measurement of spontaneous vesicular transmitter and evoked release, short-term depression and paired pulse recordings.  

2) Optogenetics. Electrophysiology and behavioural characterisation of large range of different optogenetic and thermogenetic activators and inactivators. GCaMP6f and membrane potential reporters.

3) Behaviour. Drosophila activity monitors, Drosophila arousal tracking system and for bees, Bee activity monitors, RFID monitoring of bees. Olfactory shock or sugar conditioning assay for adults and larvae. Judgement bias task. Locomotor assays for adults and larvae. Longevity assays.

4) Imaging. Confocal imaging, neurodegeneration assay for eye and central neurons.

5) Genetics. Forward and reverse genetics. Full range of promoter systems including inducible. CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing.

6) Molecular biology. Westerns, DNA gels, PCR and qRT-PCR.

7) Mathematical modelling. Dynamic clamp, Hodgkin-Huxley models of neurons and small network models.


We are collaborating with clinicians and industry to test new drugs for neurodegenerative disease. We perform regular internships with policy makers and industry. We support schools and BBC4 Christmas lectures perform Drosophila experiments. We deliver wide ranging public engagement talks, music and fly demonstrations at open days, Festival of neuroscience, Pint of science and with Guerrilla Science at the Eden Project, Secret Garden Party, Boomtown and Shambala festivals, Royal Shakespeare Company and Science Museum Late.

Selected Publications

Age-dependent changes in clock neuron structural plasticity and excitability are associated with a decrease in circadian output behavior and sleep.
Curran JA, Buhl E, Tsaneva-Atanasova K, Hodge JJL.
Neurobiol Aging. 2019 Feb 2;77:158-168. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2019.01.025. [Epub ahead of print]

Neuronal overexpression of Alzheimer's disease and Down's syndrome associated DYRK1A/minibrain gene alters motor decline, neurodegeneration and synaptic plasticity in Drosophila.
Lowe SA, Usowicz MM, Hodge JJL.
Neurobiol Dis. 2019 May;125:107-114. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2019.01.017. Epub 2019 Jan 28.

Drosophila PINK1 and parkin loss-of-function mutants display a range of non-motor Parkinson's disease phenotypes.
Julienne H, Buhl E, Leslie DS, Hodge JJL.
Neurobiol Dis. 2017 Aug;104:15-23. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2017.04.014. Epub 2017 Apr 21.

Quasimodo mediates daily and acute light effects on Drosophila clock neuron excitability.
Buhl E, Bradlaugh A, Ogueta M, Chen KF, Stanewsky R, Hodge JJ.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Nov 22;113(47):13486-13491. Epub 2016 Nov 7.

Drosophila Ionotropic Receptor 25a mediates circadian clock resetting by temperature.
Chen C, Buhl E, Xu M, Croset V, Rees JS, Lilley KS, Benton R, Hodge JJ, Stanewsky R.
Nature. 2015 Nov 26;527(7579):516-20. doi: 10.1038/nature16148. Epub 2015 Nov 18.

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system.


2019-, “In vivo characterisation of novel risk genes for Alzheimer’s disease identified by Epigenome Wide Association Studies” Alzheimer’s Research UK small grant, £5K.

2018-, “Modelling the relationship between sleep and memory Alzheimer’s disease using Drosophila” Alzheimer’s Society undergraduate grant, £2K.

2017-, “Optogenetic imaging and remote control of a fly electrical clock”, Leverhulme project grant, £211K.

2017, “Characterising a novel Alzheimer candidate gene using Drosophila” Alzheimer’s Society undergraduate grant, £2K.

2015, “Harnessing CRISPR/Cas9 technology to develop new models of Alzheimer’s” GW4 accelerator grant, £75K.

2013, “How does light control the activity and electrical properties of neurons integrating arousal behaviour, circadian rhythms, and sleep?” BBSRC research grant, £430K.

2009, “The role of PDZ scaffold dCASK and CaMKII signaling in synaptic plasticity and learning” BBSRC New investigator research grant, £542K.

2008, “Potassium channel mediated mechanisms of learning and memory in Drosophila” EU Marie-Curie International Reintegration Grant, £75K.

2008, “Using Drosophila to dissect the molecular connection between potassium channels and cancer” Royal Society Research Grant, £15K.

2006, “The role of Shaw K+ channels in Drosophila circadian rhythms” EMBO Fellowship, £7K.


Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience Postgraduate Research Director.

Pharmacology programme – 1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year and MSci lectures, practicals, tutorials and personal tutor.

Medical programme – tutorials.

Veterinary programme – lectures.

Dental programme – lectures.

MSc in Biomedical Sciences, Health Sciences and Molecular Neurosciences lectures and research projects. 


BBSRC panel of experts

Editor of Frontiers in Neuropharmacology and Frontiers in Physiology

School Research Committee member

Postgraduate Teaching Committee member

Organiser of South West Fly meeting, Bristol and UK clock clubs







Dr James Hodge

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