A visit from our Sheffield colleagues

This week started with a visit from our fellow “neurovascular coupling friends” all the way from Sheffield. To welcome our visitors to Brighton after their long train journey, we began with a few drinks and some pizza. After all what could be more welcoming than chatting pericytes in the pub?!

After everyone had become well-acquainted, we decided to head back to our various homes/hotels for the night, ready to share our research with a series of presentations the next morning. The research showcase started with two talks from Sussex (Catherine Hall) lab by Kira Shaw (postdoc) and Orla Bonnar (PhD student). Kira talked about establishing two photon imaging to measure neurovascular coupling in hippocampus, and Orla talked about using two photon imaging and haemoglobin spectroscopy to measure neurovascular coupling in visual cortex of APOE4/4 and APOE3/3 subjects.

A capillary supplying pyramidal cell bodies in CA1 hippocampus

Next up, it was Sheffield’s turn. First, Osman Shabir (Jason Berwick’s PhD student) gave a very interesting talk about his plans to investigate neurovascular coupling in models of atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Then it was time for Llywelyn Lee (Clare Howarth’s PhD student) to take the floor. Llywelyn presented his exciting data about the contribution of NOS and SOM interneurons to neurovascular coupling in somatosensory cortex.

Osman presenting
Llywelyn presenting

After lots of interesting scientific discussion, and talk of future experimental plans, we gave our visitors a tour of the University and its facilities. Following a hearty lunch at the union, the afternoon involved a two photon imaging session to look at neuronal calcium and blood vessels in CA1 hippocampus.

Feeling rather tired after an action-packed day, we ended the visit with a walk along Brighton seafront to watch the sun set with a warm cuppa. Thanks for visiting guys! Hopefully see you in Sheffield next time!

Sunset on Brighton beach
The giant deckchair at Brighton beach

Early Career Researchers Meeting

Just before the Christmas break the University of Sussex hosted an early career researchers (ERC) meeting for members of the Alzheimer’s Research UK South Coast network. This was organized by Chrysia Pegasiou, Devkee Vadakul and our own Orla Bonnar. The aim of the meeting was to promote the sharing of techniques and encourage collaborations between members of the network. PhD students and post docs working on different aspects of Alzheimer’s disease from the universities of Sussex, Portsmouth and Bournemouth attended the event.
The morning started of with three 20 minute talks. Louise Kelly (University of Portsmouth) talked about her work on the locus coeruleus nucleus that she did during her PhD. Lucas Kraft, a PhD student at the Sussex Drug Discovery Centre, talked about his work on identifying novel APOE modulators. Mohsen Seifi (University of Portsmouth), took a very different approach by looking at the gastrointestinal tract.
After a quick break the day continued with a set of flash talks (5 minutes each). Our lab member Kira Shaw gave an excellent talk on recent work in two-photon in-vivo imaging of the mouse hippocampus. After the talks we had to wait for a bit for lunch, but the delicious lasagne was definitely worth it!

Kira giving a presentation

Kira giving her presentation

In the afternoon a careers session was arranged where speakers from various fields spoke to us about their jobs and gave advice on how to pursue a career in their area. It was interesting to learn about career options both inside and outside academia. We found that there’s a surprising range of jobs that require skills you learn during your PhD. The session included speakers from Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Alzheimer’s Society, UCL and the Wellcome Trust.
It was a useful day full of interesting talks. It was nice to hear what other ERCs in the region are working on. A big thank you to Chrysia, who initiated all of this and did an excellent job organizing, as well as Orla and Devkee, who helped her.



PhD Poster Presentation Winner!

This Friday was the first year psychology poster presentation, allowing all first years in the department to share and discuss their work with fellow students and faculty members. Two lab members, Orla and Devin, presented their posters with both students receiving a lot of interest throughout the afternoon. Orla ended up winning the award for best poster!

Orla (left) and Devin with Devin’s poster

As well as the poster presentations, the ‘Great Psychology Bake Off’ took place, with lab member Dori winning the prize for ‘Best Tasting Biscuit’!

Look how pleased Dori looks with her engraved wooden spoon!

Well done to all three lab members – a successful day for Hall Lab!

6th European Visual Cortex Meeting

Last week (11-13 September) the 6th European Visual Cortex Meeting was being held at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in London. We went to the meeting with the majority of the talks.

Cris Niell talked about his large-imaging of the cortex using a crystal skull. This resulted in some interesting findings regarding the responses during stimulation and locomotion.

Nathalie Rochefort gave a talk that complimented the previous one very well. She showed findings that could not be explained by the inhibition model, and presented a new model to explain their data.

During the rest of the conferences we heard about a range of interesting topics regarding the visual cortex, including the effect of brain state, the neuroanatomy and the relation with navigation. This has given us many good ideas to improve our own research!

Outreach: Widening participation

Kira, Orla and Katie premiered their ‘tour of the brain’ for year 6 pupils on Wednesday 14 June. They guided the students through three important areas of the brain: the cerebellum, the visual cortex and the frontal lobe.


Left to right: Kira presenting the cerebellum, Katie presenting the visual cortex and Orla presenting the frontal lobe.

Sussex Neuroscience Happy Hour

On Friday 2nd June it was our lab’s turn to organize the weekly Happy Hour for Sussex Neuroscience. Since it had been so warm the previous days we decided to make it a summer themed party. We got ice lollies, made a nice pitcher of Pimms and provided a range of drinks and snacks. We announced our Happy Hour around the buildings with this gorgeous poster (made by Kira):