Our cross-cutting capabilities span large areas of experimental and clinical neuroscience, conducting independent research and research in support of the Department’s major themes. This vibrant and multidisciplinary research environment comprises:
Additionally, the Department hosts major research centres in the form of the:
- the Cambridge Centre for Frontotemporal Dementia
- the Cambridge Centre for Parkinson’s Plus
- the Cambridge Dementia Research Institute
Further details of these cross-cutting capabilities can be found below and at the corresponding links.
Integrin vesicles moving inside an axon growth cone
The John Van Geest Centre for Brain Repair is a facility within the Department of Clinical Neurosciences. The Centre was formed to bring together Cambridge scientists working across the many fields of modern neruroscience in cross-disciplinary research efforts directed at the problems associated with preventing or repairing the effects of brain damage. The focal point of the Centre is the ED Adrian building on the University Forvie site at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. In addition to providing research facilities for principal investigators working within the building there are strong collaborations with other departments and institutions in Cambridge.
The Department hosts Europe’s most comprehensive brain imaging facility for human research, from fundamental cognitive and metabolic science to translational research in mental health and dementia, and biomarker-based mechanistic trials. We are UK pioneers in linking imaging research with electronic healthcare records.
Facilities include both 3T Siemens PRISMA and Skyra MRI, 3t GE PET-MRI, MRI hyperpolariser and 7T Terra MRI for ultrahigh field MRI, MagSTIM transcranial magnetic stimulation and both shielded and mobile EEG units. In partnership with the Department of Radiology, and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, PET-CT and Magnetoencephalography are also part of the brain imaging portfolio.
The value of brain imaging is magnified by our commitment to advanced informatics, and to the integration of imaging innovations within precision cohorts. Imaging data are analysed at the University’s High Performance Hub for Informatics, with international leadership in connectomics and lifespan cohorts.
The imaging facility is placed directly between the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit and the Herchel Smith Building Clinical Research Facility, providing ease of access for patient studies, from the most severely ill to healthy out-patient cohorts. Together, the imaging and analysis of brain structure, function, and pathology provide unparalleled resources for translational medicine.
Alongside the WBIC and Van Geest Brain Repair Centre, the Clinical Suite in the Herchel Smith Building provides space for specialist facilities such as EEG, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Cognitive testing and blood sampling and is used collaboratively to support the research of the Departments of Clinical Neuroscience and Psychiatry alongside the Behavioural and Clinical Neurosciences Institute, and the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. The Clinical Neuroscience clinics held in the Suite include; the Cambridge Memory Clinic, the Early Onset Dementia Clinic, the Frontotemporal Dementia Clinic and the Disorders of Movement and Cognition Clinic.
The Cambridge Centre for Frontotemporal Dementia and Related Disorders led by Professor James Rowe is based in the Cambridge University Department of Clinical Neuroscience, but includes people and projects across many departments.
- A volumetric rendering of the MRI brain scan of a patient with genetic frontotemporal dementia, overlaid with the ligand binding of the radioactive tracer 18F-AV-1451
The Centre is dedicated to clinical and research excellence, spanning frontotemporal dementia, corticobasal degeneration, and progressive supranuclear palsy. Our goal is simple – to improve diagnosis and treatment, while supporting patients and their families.
Frontotemporal dementia and related disorders include a ‘family’ of closely related illnesses. Despite the complex and sometimes multiple names for these illnesses, they have much in common, and we believe that the best care for individual patients and the fastest progress in research comes from looking at these illness together, including:
- Behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia
- Primary progressive aphasia, including semantic dementia, non-fluent aphasia, logopenic aphasia
- Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
- Corticobasal syndrome and corticobasal degeneration
Cambridge Centre for Parkinson’s Plus
The University of Cambridge Centre for Parkinson’s Plus will transform translational research into Parkinson-Plus disorders. Our Principal Investigators – Professors Roger Barker, Patrick Chinnery, Giovanna Mallucci, John O’Brien, James Rowe and David Rubinsztein – are all clinicians leading internationally distinguished scientific programs. The Centre for Parkinson-Plus will bring these individuals together for this first time, focussing their expertise and resources on the problems faced by Parkinson-Plus patients.
The Centre will focus on the ‘textbook three’ Parkinson-Plus syndromes – Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), the Corticobasal Syndrome (CBS) and Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) – while also investigating related disorders, which share common mechanisms and present new opportunities to develop treatments that may benefit patients with Parkinson-Plus.
The UK DRI at the University of Cambridge is a collaborative, inter-disciplinary Centre, combining world-leading expertise unique to Cambridge from chemistry, biophysics and structural biology with internationally leading research in the cell biology of neurodegeneration. Led by Professor Giovanna Mallucci, the focus of the Cambridge UK DRI Centre is on understanding the mechanistic processes involved in the earliest stages of neurodegenerative disease in order to identify therapeutic targets with the greatest potential to prevent dementia. These processes include the mechanisms governing the spreading of misfolded tau protein, stress responses in the repair of synapses, autophagy as a protective cellular response, the role of DNA damage, ER dynamics and modulators of synapse repair in neurodegeneration, all of which are relevant to several different types of dementia. The Centre currently hosts three Foundation Programmes from established leaders and three programmes from newly appointed Fellows (see below). Many of these feature cross-disciplinary approaches addressing mechanisms of early disease and protective strategies, aimed at generating early scientific and translational momentum.
Researchers (~60) at the Centre are housed in 876m2 of newly refurbished laboratory space in the Island Research Building at the heart of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, co-located with the Albodorada UK Drug Discovery Institute (AR-UK DDI). Investigators from Clinical Neurosciences, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering provide on-site biophysical capabilities and state-of-the-art super-resolution microscopes, enabling novel interactions and driving further collaborative growth. The Centre is situated in one of the world’s most vibrant centres of biomedical research, which includes the University of Cambridge’s Clinical School, two major hospitals, the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, and the world headquarters of Astra Zeneca. The UK DRI has major links also with the newly established Cambridge Centre for Parkinson’s Plus.
Programmes at this centre:
- Professorship: Driving synaptic repair in early neurodegeneration
Lead: Professor Giovanna Mallucci FMedSci (Department of Clinical Neurosciences)
- Professorship: Identification of novel pathways that induce autophagy to enable neuroprotection
Lead: Professor David C Rubinsztein FMedSci FRS (Cambridge Institute for Medical Research)
- Professorship: Understanding the molecular basis of tau aggregation and spreading
Lead: Professor David Klenerman FRS (Department of Chemistry)
- Fellowship: Role of ER dynamics and morphological regulation in neuronal health and disease
Lead: Dr Edward Avezov (Department of Clinical Neurosciences)
- Fellowship: CRISPR-Cas9 genetic screens for novel synaptic maintenance genes and therapeutic targets
Lead: Dr Emmanouil Metzakopian (Department of Clinical Neurosciences)
- Fellowship: Understanding the role of DNA damage response in neurodegeneration
Lead: Dr Gabriel Balmus (Department of Clinical Neurosciences)
Henry Dale Fellow and affiliate member: Dr Will McEwan (Department of Clinical Neurosciences)