Prof Gareth Leng
My research approach is multidisciplinary, including electrophysiology, molecular neuroanatomy, behavioural and functional studies, and computational modelling.
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 a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
I am a Fellow of the Physiological Society
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).
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'.
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
- European Commission Framework 4, 5, 6 and 7
- The Wellcome Trust
- Medical Research Council
- Merck & Co
- Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
- Nancy Sabatier (Postdoctoral fellow)
- Duncan Macgregor (Postdoctoral fellow)
- Sze Ying (Postdoctoral fellow)
- Andrew Allchorne (senior technician)
- Shereen Hassan (visiting researcher)
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:
- Professor Suzanne Dickson (University of Gothenberg)
- Professor Anne Duittoz (University of Tours)
- Professor Zsolt Liposits (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest)
- Professor Valery Grinevich (University of Heidelberg)
- Colleagues at Edinburgh: Mike Ludwig, John Menzies, Paula Brunton and Simone Meddle
Gareth Leng and Rhodri Ivor Leng (2020) ‘The Matter of Facts; Skepticism, Persuasion and Evidence in Science’ MIT Press 2020 376 pp https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/matter-facts
Gareth Leng (2018) ‘The Heart of the Brain; The Hypothalamus and its Hormones’ MIT Press 280pp. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/heart-brain
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.
Information for students:
Willingness to discuss research projects with undergraduate and postgraduate students: YES - please click here