I lead a neuroscience research group within the Department of Pharmacology at Oxford University. Our work examines the processes by which synaptic connections in the brain are formed and altered by activity-dependent processes. This is a fundamental challenge if we are to understand how the brain is organised and changes in response to information from the external environment. As well as probing these basic mechanisms, the aim is to contribute to a more complete description of how synaptic circuits become altered in conditions such as epilepsy and dementia.
I conducted my doctoral studies in the Department of Physiology at Oxford, where I worked on the role of synaptic activity during brain development. Following my DPhil, I held a Wellcome Trust Fellowship at Cold Spring Harbor Labs in New York. I then returned to Oxford to take up an RCUK Academic Research Fellowship and established my own laboratory in 2008.
Research and Teaching
Evolution has invested heavily in synaptic connections. The human brain, for example, is estimated to contain 0.15 quadrillion synapses, each one taking up approximately 1 cubic micrometre. The type, strength, and distribution of synaptic connections determines the behaviour of individual neurons. It is also widely believed that alterations in the formation and/or plasticity of synaptic connections underlie many neurological disorders. These synapses develop through a combination of ‘hard-wired’ genetic mechanisms and ‘plastic’ activity-dependent processes. To study these processes, my group combine electrophysiological assessment of synaptic transmission, single and multi-photon imaging of neural circuits, molecular-genetic manipulation techniques and computational approaches.
I teach at all levels of Oxford's undergraduate course in preclinical Medicine and on graduate courses in Pharmacology and Neuroscience. I tutor Corpus students in their First BM (Years 1-2) and Final Honours School (Year 3). My main subject areas include Cellular Physiology, Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Developmental Biology and Molecular Signalling.
Ellender, T.J., Avery, S.V., Mahfooz, K., Scaber, J., von Klemperer, A., Nixon, S.L., Buchan, M.J., van Rheede, J.J., Gatti, A., Waites, C., Pavlou, H.J., Sims, D., Newey, S.E., Akerman, C.J. (2019) Embryonic progenitor pools generate diversity in fine-scale excitatory cortical subnetworks. Nature Communications, 10.
Wright, R., Newey, S.E., Ilie, A., Wefelmeyer, W., Raimondo, J.V., Ginham, R., Mcllhinney, R.A.J., Akerman, C.J. (2017) Neuronal chloride regulation via KCC2 is modulated through a GABAB receptor protein complex. Journal of Neuroscience 37(22):5447-5462.
Lillicrap, T.P., Cownden, D., Tweed, DB, Akerman, C.J. (2016) Random synaptic feedback weights support error backpropagation for deep learning. Nature Communications, 7:13276.
van Rheede, J.J., Richards, B.A., Akerman, C.J. (2015) Sensory-evoked spiking behavior emerges via an experience-dependent plasticity mechanism. Neuron 87(5):1050-62.
Ellender, T.J., Raimondo, J.V., Irkle, A., Lamsa, K.P., Akerman C.J. (2014) Excitatory effects of parvalbumin-expressing interneurons maintain hippocampal epileptiform activity via synchronous afterdischarges. Journal of Neuroscience 34(46):15208-22.