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Previous lab personnel

  • Dr Chris Roome (now with Dr Bernd Kuhn, Okinawa Institute of Technology, Japan)
  • Dr Raghu Nagaraja (now with Associate Professor John Reynolds, Dept of Anatomy and Structural Biology, University of Otago)
  • Miss Helena Huang (now a PhD candidate with Associate Professor John Bekkers, ANU, Australia)
  • Mr Daniil Potapov (now with Dr István Ábrahám, Department of Physiology)
  • Dr Tom Jensen (now with Professor Dimitri Rusakov, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, UK)

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Research interests

The research in this laboratory uses a combination of electrophysiology, live imaging and molecular approaches to better understand the consequences of modifications to neuronal circuits. Our special interest lies with those circuits, or networks that contribute to our ability to make controlled movements; those within the cerebellum and the motor cortex. This research has relevance for addressing the highly debilitating and poorly treated movement disorders such as ataxia, motor neurone disease and spinal injury. We are also becoming increasingly interested in the contribution from the cerebellum to cognitive processes and its disruption in the poorly treated disorder autism.

Keywords

Cerebellum, Motor cortex, Electrophysiology, Ca2+ signalling, Ataxia, PMCA2, NCX

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Expertise

  • Patch Clamp Electrophysiology
  • Calcium imaging
  • Post-hoc neuron reconstructions
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Western blot
  • PCR-based genotyping; single cell PCR
  • MATLAB

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Projects

  • Cellular and Network Identity in the Motor Cortex; projection neuron identity and networks
  • Cellular and Network Identity in the Motor Cortex; corticospinal motor neuron function
  • Cerebellar Circuitry - understanding modifications in the ataxic PMCA2 knockout mouse
  • Cerebellar Circuitry - cooperative calcium clearance mechanisms for parallel fibre function
  • Cerebellar Circuitry - nicotinic receptor mediated actions at cerebellar synapses

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Current funding

  • 2010–2014 Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Foundation: The transcription factor code: maintaining neuronal identity and function in the adult brain
  • 2013–2014 University of Otago Research Grant: Towards the Development of an On-Demand Device to Control Epilepsy, with Associate Professors John Reynolds (Anatomy) and Mike Paulin (Zoology)

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Previous funding

  • 2008–2011 New Zealand Neurological Foundation: Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor Signalling in Cerebellar Ataxia
  • 2007–2008 University of Otago School of Medical Sciences, Dean's Bequest Funding: Movers and Shakers!
  • 2009–2010 Otago Medical Research Foundation: Cutting out the middle-man; Partner interactions for healthy synapses, with Dr P. Turner
  • 2008–2009 HRC-JSPS Fellowhip to suport collaboration between our lab and Dr Thomas Knöpfel, Brain Science Institute, RIKEN, Tokyo, Japan
  • 2004–2009 BBSRC Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK: PMCA2 (plasma membrane Ca2+ ATPase) - its role in synapse structure and function. Continued collaboration with Prof Philip Beesley and Prof Brian Austen, Royal Holloway University of London.
  • 2008–2009 University of Otago Research Grant: Cooperation of Ca2+ Recovery Mechanisms for Synapse Function
  • 2004–2007 Epilepsy Research Foundation UK: Influence of PMCA dependent Ca2+ signalling during epileptogenesis

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Collaborators

  • Associate Professor Stephanie Hughes, Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, New Zealand
  • Dr Natalie Medlicott, New Zealand's National School of Pharmacy University of Otago, New Zealand
  • Dr Thomas Knöpfel, Laboratory of Neuronal Circuit Dynamics, RIKEN BSI, Tokyo, Japan
  • Prof Emanuel Strehler & Dr Aida Filoteo, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA
  • Prof Brian Austen, Biochemistry, St George's Hospital Medical School, London, UK
  • Prof Philip Beesley, School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway College University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK

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Teaching

  • PHSL 341 - Cellular Communication; Calcium and synaptic signalling
  • HUBS 191 - Membrane Bioelectricity
  • PHSL 231 - Electrical Signalling; Membrane excitability, action potentials and synapses
  • PHSL 474 - Research Topics
  • PHSL 472 - Cellular and Molecular Physiology
  • Convenor HUBS 191 Health Sciences First Year

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Lab photos

Click to enlarge:

Saggital section through the cerebellar cortex (thumbnail-size image)
Saggital section through the cerebellar cortex.

Cerebellar Purkinje neuron filled with a calcium sensitive dye (thumbnail-size image)
Cerebellar Purkinje neuron filled with a calcium sensitive dye.

Empson Lab visit to the only Olympic-sized curling rink in the southern hemisphere, September 2011 (thumbnail-size image)
Lab visit to the only Olympic-sized curling rink in the southern hemisphere, September 2011.

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Selected publications

Jimenez-Martin, J., Potapov, D., Potapov, K., Knöpfel, T., & Empson, R. M. (2021). Cholinergic modulation of sensory processing in awake mouse cortex. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 17525. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-96696-8

Lyons, N., Schoderboeck, L., Ibrahim, M. F., Hughes, S. M., & Empson, R. M. (2021). The light activated chloride channel GtACR2 is a novel potential therapeutic to treat chronic pain. New Zealand Medical Journal, 134(1537), (pp. 104). Retrieved from https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal

Ibrahim, M. F., Beevis, J. C., & Empson, R. M. (2020). Essential tremor: A cerebellar driven disorder? Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2020.11.002

Ganesh, M., Clare, A. J., Dragunow, M., Hughes, S. M., Clarkson, A. N., & Empson, R. M. (2019). Deciphering the fate of integrated pericytes in mouse motor cortex. Proceedings of the 39th Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS) Annual Scientific Meeting. 12491. Retrieved from https://www.ans.org.au

Jimenez-Martin, J., Potapov, D., & Empson, R. (2019). Visualising population voltage responses of cortical layer 2/3 during sensory stimulation in awake mice. Proceedings of the 39th Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS) Annual Scientific Meeting. 11615. Retrieved from https://www.ans.org.au

Empson, R. (2019, February). Mind the gap: Brain connections and behaviour. University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. [Inaugural Professorial Lecture].

Empson, R. M., Jimenez-Martin, J., & Potapov, D. (2019). Voltage maps from somatosensory cortex in awake behaving mice: Use for mapping chronic pain transition in the brain. In K. Hillman (Ed.), Proceedings of the 37th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research (AWCBR). (pp. 59). Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr

Ibrahim, M. F., Potapov, D., Potapov, K., Lindemann, L., & Empson, R. M. (2019). Metabotropic glutamate receptors as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of Spino-cerebellar Ataxia type 1 (SCA1). In K. Hillman (Ed.), Proceedings of the 37th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research (AWCBR). (pp. 39). Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr

Ganesh, M., Clare, A. J., Dragunow, M., Hughes, S. M., Clarkson, A. N., & Empson, R. M. (2019). Deciphering the fate of integrate pericytes in mouse motor cortex. In K. Hillman (Ed.), Proceedings of the 37th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research (AWCBR). (pp. 35). Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr

Jimenez-Martin, J., Potapov, D., & Empson, R. M. (2019). Visualising population voltage responses of cortical layer 2/3 during sensory stimulation in awake mice. In K. Hillman (Ed.), Proceedings of the 37th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research (AWCBR). (pp. 34). Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr

Deeney, E. A., & Empson, R. M. (2019). Folia-specific vulnerability of the cerebellar climbing fibre synapse in a mouse model of human spinocerebellar ataxia type 1. New Zealand Medical Journal, 132(1499), (pp. 88-89). Retrieved from https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal

Empson, R. (2018). Visualising motor map dynamics. Proceedings of the 38th Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS) Annual Scientific Meeting. Retrieved from https://www.ans.org.au

Tantirigama, M. L. S., Cheyne, J. E., Bekkers, J. M., Zavitz, E., Abidi, M., & Empson, R. M. (2018). Sensory and motor processing in cortical circuits in vivo. Proceedings of the 38th Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS) Annual Scientific Meeting. Retrieved from https://www.ans.org.au

Empson, R. (2018). Genetically encoded voltage indicators for imaging synaptic circuit activity. Proceedings of the 38th Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS) Annual Scientific Meeting. Retrieved from https://www.ans.org.au

Mockett, B. G., Meunier, F. A., Gumy, L. F., Empson, R. M., & Micallef, A. H. (2018). Exploring neuronal function through advanced imaging techniques. Proceedings of the 38th Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS) Annual Scientific Meeting. Retrieved from https://www.ans.org.au

Deeney, E., & Empson, R. (2018). Short duration voluntary exercise does not alter cerebellar morphology or motor performance in a mouse model of human spinocerebellar ataxia type 1. Proceedings of the Society for Neuroscience 48th Annual Meeting. 490.16/MM10. SfN. Retrieved from https://www.sfn.org

Clare, A. J., Day, R. C., Empson, R. M., & Hughes, S. M. (2018). Transcriptome profiling of layer 5 intratelencephalic projection neurons from the mature mouse motor cortex. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 11, 410. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2018.00410

Power, E. M., Potapov, D., Potapov, K., Knopfel, T., & Empson, R. M. (2018). Population plasticity at the cerebellar Parallel fibre to Purkinje neuron synapse. In K. Hillman (Ed.), Proceedings of the 36th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. (pp. 49). AWCBR. Retrieved from https://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr

Denny, P., McDonald, F., Empson, R., Kelly, P., & Petersen, A. (2018). Empirical support for a causal relationship between gamification and learning outcomes. Proceedings of the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 311. New York, NY: ACM. doi: 10.1145/3173574.3173885

Roome, C. J., & Empson, R. M. (2018). Survival strategies for mouse cerebellar Purkinje neurons lacking PMCA2. Neuroscience Letters, 663, 25-28. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2017.09.045

Ganesh, M., Clare, A., Dragunow, M., Hughes, S., Clarkson, A., & Empson, R. (2017). Pericyte therapeutics to repair the stroke-lesioned brain. Proceedings of the University of Otago Student Research Symposium: Te Wānaka Rakahau: Ākoka. (pp. 28). Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/graduate-research/scholarships/otago643219.html

Clare, A. J., Wicky, H. E., Empson, R. M., & Hughes, S. M. (2017). RNA-sequencing analysis reveals a regulatory role for transcription factor Fezf2 in the mature motor cortex. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 10, 283. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2017.00283

Clare, A. J., Wicky, H. E., Dearden, P. K., Empson, R. M., & Hughes, S. M. (2017). Developmentally important transcription factor Fezf2 has a molecular and functional role in the mature brain. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Genetics Society of Australasia (GSA) with the New Zealand Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (NZSBMB). 693. Retrieved from http://gen2017.w.events4you.currinda.com

Ganesh, M., Clare, A., Dragunow, M., Hughes, S., Clarkson, A., & Empson, R. (2017). Pericyte therapeutics to repair the stroke-lesioned brain. In B. Leitch (Ed.), Proceedings of the 35th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. (pp. 51). AWCBR. Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr/index.html

Deeney, E. A., Power, E. M., Heyward, P. M., & Empson, R. M. (2017). Does voluntary exercise improve motor performance and/or cerebellar architecture in SCA1 moderately ataxic mice. In B. Leitch (Ed.), Proceedings of the 35th International Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research. (pp. 50). AWCBR. Retrieved from http://www.otago.ac.nz/awcbr/index.html

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