Skip to main content



We have strong expertise at the University of Exeter to study the processes that generate, shape, and reshape nervous system of animals from early stages of embryonic development to adulthood. In particular we are interested in both fundamental and translationally-relevant molecular and cellular mechanisms that influence proper functioning of the mature brain and how they can go awry in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric diseases We study diverse systems including mouse, human, zebrafish and marine zooplanktons and are supported by state-of-art aquatic resource centerand genomics facilities. 


Areas of research: 


  • Early life stress mechanisms and psychiatric disease susceptibility: Early life stress exposure is one of the strongest risk factors for developing adult psychiatric disease. Prof Ryu’s group studies the molecular and cellular effects of early life stress exposure using zebrafish. Using sophisticated genetic and optogenetic tools to alter stress level during development, the group strives to establish mechanistic link between early life stress exposure and physiological and behavioural changes in adulthood. The group also uses the early life stress manipulation to develop, characterize and screen novel animal models of psychiatric diseases.  

  • Neuroepigenetics and genomics of human brain development: The precise temporal regulation of transcriptional processes is necessary for the correct development of structural and functional complexity in the brain. Prof Mill’s complex epigenetics group is undertaking a series of studies to systematically examine epigenomic and transcriptomic trajectories across the life course, looking at genomic regulation from fetal development to old age. Prof Mill’s group has strong expertise ingenomic analyses ofneurodevelopmental disorders, dementia and neuropsychiatric diseases. 

  • Neural circuit bases of behaviour, its development and evolution: Prof Gaspar Jekely’s group studies the neural circuit bases of behaviour and how neuromodulators confer flexibility to circuit activity and behaviours at the single neuron level using the marine annelid Platynereisdumerilii. The group uses whole-body connectomics complemented with activity imaging, behavioural analysis and neurogenetics. 

  • Molecules, cells and circuits of neurodevelopmental disorder: Dr Oguro-Ando's group uses high-throughput rodent modelling methods and experimental validation to study how genetic risk factors mechanistically influence human behaviour. They also use genome-editing and novel microscopy techniques to explore psychiatric disease-related gene function in neuronal models, to understand the combined genetic and environmental factors, and to identify the biological mechanisms of abnormal brain development. 

  • Mechanism of cell communication by chemical signalling: An essential component for tissue development, regeneration and stem cell regulation is the communication of cells by chemical signaling. Prof Schlopp’s group uses the zebrafish embryo to investigate how intercellular Wnt protein transport is regulated and how signals are subsequently delivered to the target cell in a living vertebrate organism.  

  • Gene expression dynamic across development and in psychiatric diseases: Dr Nicholas Clifton’s research focuses on studying gene expression patterns of biological pathways associated with psychiatric disorders. His group uses cell-specific RNA sequencing and ribosomal profiling approaches to track expression dynamics across development and apply these data to questions about genetic risk with bioinformatics.  


Neurodevelopment - who we are

 Professor Soojin Ryu  Mireille Gillings Professor of Neurobiology
 Professor Jonathan Mill  Professor of Epigenomics
 Professor Gaspar Jekely  Professor of Neuroscience
 Professor Steffen Scholpp  Associate Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
 Dr Nicholas Clifton  Senior Research Fellow
 Dr Asami Oguro-Ando  Lecturer