Pharmacology and Translational Neuroscience Research Group

Our pharmacologists and neuroscientists research the brain and nervous system, understanding and developing treatments for conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, pain, and diabetic neuropathy.


The Pharmacology and Translational Neuroscience Research Group conducts research in the two main topics of pharmacology and translational neuroscience, as well as contributing to two of the College of Health and Life Sciences’ four key multidisciplinary themes; cellular and molecular biomedicine, and clinical and systems neuroscience.

By studying how drugs work and how they interact with the body, we can improve drug performance and patient care. We also look at cells within the brain and nervous system to understand how they interact in disease and health, including: 

  • memory and synaptic plasticity 
  • epilepsy 
  • Parkinson’s 
  • Alzheimer’s 
  • pain 
  • neuro-immunological diseases in children 
  • nerve damage caused by diabetes. 


Our researchers collaborate with scientists in other leading universities and private or charity-funded research laboratories. They have also developed close working relationships with individuals and organisations in the NHS and wider healthcare fields including industry partners such as GW Pharma. 


Our major funders include Epilepsy Research UK, The Wellcome Trust, Academy of Medical Sciences, European Commission, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Medical Research Council (MRC), Encephalitis Society, Versus Arthritis, and NHS trusts such as the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

People and publications

We are primarily interested in cellular and molecular neuroscience, with applications both to basic science and to clinical practice. We publish in leading journals such as Nature Cell Biology, Neuron, EMBO, and Cell Reports, and serve as editorial advisers on numerous journals, including high profile publications such as Nature. Group members have close ties with leading pharmaceutical companies and the NHS and serve on advisory panels to support the work of, for example, the Home Office.

Professor David Poyner

Director of Research: Professor David Poyner 

David is a professor of pharmacology within Aston Pharmacy School, and a member of the British Pharmacological Society, and the Biochemical Society. His main research interest is in the receptors for neuropeptides, especially those for calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and adrenomedullin. Drugs developed from CGRP and adrenomedullin may be of benefit in a variety of conditions such as migraine, heart disease and arthritis. He also specialises in the teaching of molecular pharmacology across pharmacy, neuroscience, bioscience and medicine courses at the University.


As well as standard electrophysiological, molecular and behavioural techniques, we exploit confocal imaging in the ARCHA Advanced Imaging Facility, the in-vivo facilities in the biomedical facility, as well as facilities such as TMS, MRI, and MEG, within the Aston Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment.

Research topics

Pharmacology Research

Work within this topic analyses drugs and their interactions with molecules, cell tissues and organs, as well as the biological process that leads to disease. We then translate this information to make drugs more effective and targeted to patient needs. 

We investigate: 

  • Interactions between glial cells and neurons. 
  • Developing new models to study neurodegenerative diseases, particularly using stem cells. 
  • Causes of toxicity in drugs and ways to manage this, particularly in the brain. 
  • How proteins embedded in the cellular membrane control processes taking place within the cells, including gene transcription.  
  • The structure and function of G protein-coupled receptors. 
Translational Neuroscience Research

Translational neuroscience turns basic neuroscience research into treatments and novel therapies for nervous system disorders. We investigate both normal physiological function such as synaptic plasticity and memory, and also disease states such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, neuro-immunological diseases of childhood, pain, itch, and diabetic neuropathy.  

Our research uses a range of methods including molecular biological, neurochemical, behavioural and electrophysiological techniques. We use human brain tissue donated by patients, wild-type and genetically modified organisms, stem cells, organotypic culture and conventional cultured cells. 

Within this topic, we conduct work as part of the Aston Laboratories for Translational Epilepsy Research (ALTER). This research is improving the understanding of epilepsy, particularly in children, and advancing treatments to improve the lives of patients, their families, and carers. Our research explores the pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy, and our researchers in this area specialise in: 

  • cellular, molecular and system neuroscience 
  • membrane biology 
  • computational neuroscience 
  • neuropsychology 
  • clinical neurophysiology.