Research in Isolation

Down on the list of important issues related to Covid-19 is the fact that doing research, for some disciplines anyway, has become rather difficult if not altogether impossible. This is certainly the case for a lot of lab-based research, since all facilities are off limits now, as is human contact. I know that quite a few PhD students will feel stranded at the moment, and that steps have been taken to either stop or significantly alter the way important drug trials are being carried out.

On the flip side, there is a deluge of interest in looking at research that helps right now, doing things that are related, directly, indirectly, to the virus and how it has changed our lives. We are also trying something out that we hope will bring some benefit (now and beyond this crisis). We’ll see.

In other news, we just had an article accepted in the International Journal of Neuroscience.

Title: CSF a-synuclein correlates with CSF neurogranin in late-life depression


Major depressive disorder (MDD) in late life is linked to increased risk of subsequent dementia, but it is still unclear exactly what pathophysiological mechanisms underpin this link. A potential mechanism related to elevated risk of dementia in MDD is increased levels of alpha-synuclein (a-Syn), a protein found in presynaptic neuronal terminals. In this study, we examined cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of a-Syn in conjunction with biomarkers of neurodegeneration (amyloid beta 42, total and phospho tau) and synaptic dysfunction (neurogranin), and measures of memory ability, in 27 cognitively intact older individuals with MDD and 19 controls. Our results show that CSF a-Syn levels did not significantly differ across depressed and control participants, but a-Syn was directly associated with neurogranin levels, and indirectly linked to poorer memory ability. All in all, we found that a-Syn may be implicated in the association between late life MDD and synaptic dysfunction, although further research is needed to confirm these results.

UPDATE: Just as I was typing this, the article came out. You can find it here.

Posted in Covid-19, Dementia, Depression, gut-brain axis, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

Depression and the Immune system

Late-life major depression (LLMD) is a risk factor for the development of mild cognitive impairment and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and vascular dementia. Immune dysregulation and changes in innate immune responses in particular, have been implicated in the pathophysiology of both LLMD and AD. Complement system, a key component of the innate immune mechanism, is known to play an important role in synaptic plasticity and cognitive functions. However, its role in LLMD remains unknown. In the present study, we examined the levels of complement component 3 (C3, the convergence point of all complement activation pathways) in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of elderly depressed subjects compared to healthy controls; as well as the relationship of CSF C3 levels with amyloid-beta (Aβ42 and Aβ40), total tau (T-tau) and phosphorylated tau (P-tau) proteins and cognition scores. CSF was obtained from 50 cognitively intact volunteers (major depression group, N = 30; comparison group, N = 20) and analyzed for levels of C3 by ELISA. C3 levels were marginally lower in the major pexels-photo-236151.jpgdepression group relative to the comparison group. We did not find any significant association of C3 with the AD biomarkers Aβ42 reflecting plaque pathology, P-tau related to tau pathology or the neurodegeneration biomarker T-tau. In contrast, C3 was positively correlated with CSF Aβ40, which may reflect Aβ deposition in cerebral vessel walls. We observed a negative correlation between C3 levels and Total Recall on the Buschke Selective Reminding Test (BSRT) for memory performance in the depressed subjects when controlling for education. This initial evidence on C3 status in LLMD subjects may have implications for our understanding of the pathophysiology of major depression especially in late life.

Link to article.

In other news, the Winter Gala yesterday was a blast!

(Photo by Pixabay)

Posted in Aging, Brain Damage, Cognition, Depression, Emotions, Memory, Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Liverpool Neuroscience Group Winter Gala 2019: Fooling The Senses


November 27 @ 15:00 – 21:00

£5.00 charge

A Celebration of Multisensory Neuroscience!

As part of our mission to increase public engagement with neuroscience research, the LNG is organising a festive celebration of Multisensory Neuroscience, featuring mince pies, presentations from local researchers, and a keynote lecture on Neurogastronomy by Professor Charles Spence. (And music, wine and perhaps a seance!).

A full programme will be released very soon. It promises to be a multisensory feast!

Volunteers Needed:
We encourage anyone, especially Students & Early Career Researchers, to contact to help with public engagement activities.

Your ideas for activities are very welcome!



Registration includes attendance, tea & coffee, & a glass of wine at the drinks reception.

This will be a public event, but the first 100 tickets will be reserved for Liverpool Neuroscience Group members until Friday 1/11/2019.
Any remaining tickets will then be put on general sale.

We are asking all attendees to make a small contribution (£5) to the cost of the event.
Thanks to support from our partner institutions, the LNG will be subsidising the remaining costs.

Tickets must be booked by 20/11/2019There is a strict capacity limit, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

If you are unable to make a contribution but would still like to attend, please contact

Programme (subject to change)

2.45 – Registration – Please bring your printed tickets / e-tickets.

3.00 – Welcome

Presentation 1: Dr Sylvia Terbeck, Liverpool John Moores University – “Other People, Vodka, and Propanolol

Presentation 2: Professor Charles Leek, University of Liverpool – “The Mystery of Human Vision: Is Seeing Believing?

Presentation 3: TBC

Ig Nobel Prize Presentation: Professor Francis McGlone, Liverpool John Moores University – “Itching For Answers

4.30 – Break: Tea, Coffee & Mince Pies + Activities

5.00 – Keynote Presentation: Professor Charles Spence, University of Oxford – “Neurogastronomy

6.00 – Thanks To Speakers / Afternoon Meeting Close

6.15 – Dr Matteo Borrini, Liverpool John Moores University & Liverpool Mahatma Magic Circle

7.00 – Music, Wine, & Networking.

Featuring: The Halcyon Syncopaters (

The Bluecoat bar will be open to purchase additional drinks.

9.00 – End


(Thanks to Adarsh Makdani).

Posted in Cognition, Emotions, Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

The Primacy of Primacy

We have just published an article in the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology that continues in the vein of previous work (see also here) that focused on the relationship between serial position effects and cognitive decline. Like I discussed here, for example. The first author is my brilliant PhD student, Deborah Talamonti.

What we showed in this paper is that remembering the first four words of a list, after a delay of about 15 minutes, is a protective factor against developing mild cognitive impairment, or, in other words, it is a good sign that cognitive decline may not be happening after all.

Picture unrelated (my mother’s flowers)


Posted in Aging, Brain Damage, Cognition, Dementia, Memory, Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

A memory test to measure dementia biomarkers

We have just published a new paper on the recency ratio on the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. An abstract can be found here.

A key point we are making with this paper is that we need a range of methods to identify people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these methods, such as neuroimaging, may be more sensitive (although that is up for debate), but are also more expensive and cannot be practically applied to all situations. Given that dementia is spreading worldwide, with projected incidence ballooning in developing countries, cheaper screening tools are also needed. We think our method provides one of these tools.


Posted in Aging, Brain Damage, Cognition, Dementia, Memory, Psychology | Tagged , , , , ,

The Conversation: Alzheimer’s disease – don’t give up on plaque-busting drugs just yet

I wrote a piece for The Conversation. It is here. And it is based on this article we just published.EVENT-The-Conversation-logo-1-642x315.png

Posted in Aging, Brain Damage, Cognition, Dementia, Memory | Tagged , , , , ,

How to tell Alzheimer’s disease from other types of dementia?

We just published a little note in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, free to view in this link. For the analysis, we used the recency-based approach, discussed here, and here.

Posted in Uncategorized