The pharmacology of the nervous system, or neuropharmacology, is a core feature of the research carried out in the Department. Neuropharmacology is an exciting field, not only because there are very few effective treatments for psychiatric or neurological disorders, but also because the actions of these drugs are poorly understood. Neuropharmacology is therefore a very active field of research with major public health implications.
The research carried out by the groups of David Belin, Ewan Smith and Andrew Thompson aims to address this challenge, with methods ranging from the measurement of simple drug-receptor interactions through to the neuropsychopharmacological events that underpin normal and pathological neuronal communication and the molecular substrates of brain function.
Ewan Smith's group tackles questions regarding the neurobiological substrates of respiratory regulation and pain, using mice and naked mole-rats as model systems. Andrew Thompson performs fragment-based drug discovery on expressed receptors and characterises the function, pharmacology and physiology of both established and newly identified ligands using a range of approaches. The group of David Belin is interested in the neural and cellular substrates of impulse control, emotion, feeding behaviour and their associated pathological states such as gambling, anorexia, compulsive disorders and addiction.
This research depends upon state of the art techniques including optogenetics, DREADD, patch-clamp, TEVC and extracellular electrophysiology, fluorescence-based methods, and sophisticated animal models for impulsive and compulsive disorders.