Personal Biography

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.

Recent Publications

Burman RJ, Brodersen PJN, Raimondo JV, Sen A, Akerman CJ (2023) Active cortical networks promote shunting fast synaptic inhibition in vivo. Neuron, doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2023.08.005.

Alfonsa H, Burman RJ, Brodersen PJN, Newey SE, Mahfooz K, Yamagata T, Panayi MC, Bannerman DM, Vyazovskiy VV, Akerman CJ (2023) Intracellular chloride regulation mediates local sleep pressure in the cortex. Nature Neuroscience, 26(1):64-78.

Burman RJ, Rosch RE, Wilmshurst JM, Sen A, Ramantani G, Akerman CJ, Raimondo JV (2022) Why won't it stop? The dynamics of benzodiazepine resistance in status epilepticus. Nature Reviews in Neurology,18(7):428-441.

Călin A, Ilie AS, Akerman CJ (2021) Disrupting Epileptiform Activity by Preventing Parvalbumin Interneuron Depolarization Block. Journal of Neuroscience, 41(45):9452-9465.

Lillicrap TP, Santoro A, Marris L, Akerman CJ, Hinton G (2020) Backpropagation and the brain. Nature Reviews in Neuroscience, 21(6):335-346.

Ellender TJ, Avery SV, Mahfooz K, Scaber J, von Klemperer A, Nixon SL, Buchan MJ, van Rheede JJ, Gatti A, Waites C, Pavlou HJ, Sims D, Newey SE, Akerman CJ (2019) Embryonic progenitor pools generate diversity in fine-scale excitatory cortical subnetworks. Nature Communications. 10(1):5224.