In my research, I adopt an inter-disciplinary approach to address hypotheses about the neurobiological basis of neural and behavioural plasticity in both humans and non-human animals. I am particularly driven to understand the interaction between environmental and genetic factors in the manifestation of impulsive/compulsive behaviours such as addiction, ADHD and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I address these questions by employing a systems approach to my work, including forward genetic screening, molecular biology, pharmacology, a wide range of associative learning approaches (instrumental and Pavlovian conditioning) and mathematical modelling. Currently, I use zebrafish as a model system.
I have a strong interest in statistics and research design, and I am passionate about the 3Rs (refinement, reduction, replacement) of animals in research, and in particular about using appropriate experimental design and statistics to reduce unnecessary usage of live animals through underpowered, poorly designed/poorly controlled experiments. I see this not only as an ethical responsibility for researchers in the life sciences, but also an essential component of good science. On the basis of this expertise, I have recently been elected onto the Animals in Science Committee (ASC), a non-departmental public body sponsored by the UK Home Office to provide independent advice to the Government on the use of animals in scientific procedures, advise the Animal Welfare Ethical Review Bodies on good practice and exchange information with other national bodies within the European Union.