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Prof Gareth Leng

My research approach is multidisciplinary, including electrophysiology, molecular neuroanatomy, behavioural and functional studies, and computational modelling.

Professor Gareth Leng (FRSE)

Professor of Experimental Physiology

  • Hugh Robson Building
  • 15 George Square
  • Edinburgh EH8 9XD

Contact details

Personal profile

From 1977 - 1994 I was employed directly by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) at The Babraham Institute Cambridge. I moved to Edinburgh in November 1994 to the newly established Chair of Experimental Physiology.

From 1996 - 2003 I was Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Neuroendocrinology.

From 2012 until 2016 I was President of the International Neuroendocrine Federation.

I am an honorary member of the British Society for Neuroendocrinology

I am an editor of Neuroendocrinology

I am a consulting editor of Experimental Physiology

I am an associate editor of Physiological Reports

I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Research Theme


Prof. Gareth Leng's research briefing

The focus of my research is on understanding neuronal networks in the hypothalamus, particularly those controlling pituitary hormone secretion and those controlling appetite and obesity.

My research approach is multidisciplinary, including electrophysiology, molecular neuroanatomy, behavioural and functional studies and computational modelling.

Appetite and Obesity

I am part of three large, multinational projects funded by the European Commission Framework 7 programme to identify new treatments to address the problems of obesity and diabetes: Neurofast, Full4Health and Nudge-IT (which I co-ordinate).


Full for Health


My role in this is to help in understanding the neuronal circuitry in the hypothalamus that regulates appetite and energy balance, and how specific interventions affect this circuitry. We study these neuronal circuits by mapping the expression of the immediate-early gene c-fos, and by recording the electrical activity of identified hypothalamic neurons, in response to interventions that increase or reduce appetite.

Neural control of the pituitary

I have a long standing research interest in the regulation of oxytocin and vasopressin neurons in the hypothalamus. These neurons are important model systems in neuroscience as well as being regulators of important physiological systems.

Most recently, our work has focused on secretion of oxytocin and vasopressin within the brain, from the dendrites of magnocellular neurons. This central release may be of particular importance for the behavioural effects of these peptides.

We have shown that dendritic release is regulated semiindependently of axonal release; dendritic release can be evoked by peptides that mobilise intracellular calcium stores, but activity-dependent dendritic release requires a preparatory phase, called 'priming'.

Computational Neuroscience

For many years I have been interested in how information is processed by neurons, and specifically in how information is coded by patterns of electrical activity, especially the patterns generated by neuroendocrine neurons.

We have also contributed to understanding how these patterns are generated. This work involves experimental analysis of pattern generation, statistical analysis of firing patterns, and computational modelling of both single neurones and networks of neurones.


During my time in Edinburgh, my research has been funded by grants from

Team members

  • Nancy Sabatier (Postdoctoral fellow)
  • Duncan Macgregor (Postdoctoral fellow)
  • Fabrice Plaisier (Postdoctoral fellow)
  • Jorge Maicas Royo (PhD student)
  • Luis Paiva (Postdoctoral fellow)


I have an extensive network of collaborators around the world, apart from my collaborators in Edinburgh and those on my current European grants, they include:

Selected publications

Gareth Leng (2018)
‘The Heart of the Brain; The Hypothalamus and its Hormones’ MIT Press 280pp.

Gareth Leng (2018) ‘The Heart of the Brain; The Hypothalamus and its Hormones’ MIT Press 280pp.

Leng G, Pineda Reyes R, Sabatier N, Ludwig M (2015) 60 YEARS OF NEUROENDOCRINOLOGY: The posterior pituitary: from Geoffrey Harris to our present understanding. J Endocrinol 226:T173-85. PMID 25901040

Leng G, Ludwig M (2016) Intranasal oxytocin: myths and delusions. BiolPsychiatry 79:243-50. PMID 26049207

Leng G, Adan RA, Belot M, Brunstrom JM, de Graaf K, Dickson SL, Hare T, Maier S, Menzies J, Preissl H, Reisch LA, Rogers PJ, Smeets PA (2016) The determinants of food choice. Proc Nutr Soc. Dec 1:1-12.

Leng G, Sabatier N (2016) Measuring oxytocin and vasopressin: bioassays, immunoassays and random numbers. J Neuroendocrinol. (10).

Leng G, Sabatier N (2017) Oxytocin - The Sweet Hormone? Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2017 May;28(5):365-376.

Macgregor DJ, Leng G. (2013) Spike triggered hormone secretion in vasopressin cells; a model investigation of mechanism and heterogeneous population function PLoS Comput Biol. 9(8):e1003187

Pineda R, Sabatier N, Ludwig M, Millar RP, Leng G (2016) A direct neurokinin B projection from the arcuate nucleus regulates magnocellular vasopressin cells of the supraoptic nucleus. J Neuroendocrinol PMID 26610724

Tsuji T, Tsuji C, Ludwig M, Leng G (2016) The rat suprachiasmatic nucleus: The master clock ticks at 30 Hz. J Physiol. 594:3629-50.

Tsuji T, Allchorne AJ, Zhang M, Tsuji C, Tobin VA, Pineda R, Raftogianni A, Stern JE, Grinevich V, Leng G, Ludwig M (2017) Vasopressin casts light on the suprachiasmatic nucleus. J Physiol. 595:3497-3514

Leng T, Leng G, MacGregor DJ (2017) Spike patterning in oxytocin neurons: Capturing physiological behaviour with Hodgkin-Huxley and integrate-and-fire models. PLoS One. 12(7):e0180368

Gareth Leng publication list (pdf)


Oxytocin, the love hormone? (YouTube video)

Research in a Nutshell: Sex and appetite

The Loving Brain: Monogamy to Maternity Part 1 (Livestream video)

The Loving Brain: Monogamy to Maternity Part 2 (Livestream video)

Do our genes still fit? The neuroscience of appetite and obesity (YouTube video)

Information for students:

Willingness to discuss research projects with undergraduate and postgraduate students: YES - please click here