Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences
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Rafael Almeida

Despite the attention devoted to studying how neurons communicate through neurotransmitters released at synapses, many neurons also release neurotransmitters away from the synapse. Such non-synaptic release is implicated in many cognitive functions, but we have a poor understanding of it occurs and how it can alter neural circuit function in the intact CNS

Dr Rafael Almeida

Chancellor’s Fellow

  • The Chancellors Building
  • 49 Little France Crescent
  • Edinburgh, EH16 4SB

Contact details

Personal profile

ralmeida
  • 2021: Chancellor’s Fellow, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • 2015-2021: Postdoctoral fellow, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • 2015: PhD in Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • 2008: MSc in Molecular Biology & Genetics, University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • 2007: Undergraduate degree in Microbiology & Genetics, University of Lisbon, Portugal

Research Theme

Synapses, Circuits and Behaviour 

Genes and Development

Despite the attention devoted to studying how neurons communicate through neurotransmitters released at synapses, many neurons also release neurotransmitters away from the synapse. Such non-synaptic release is implicated in many cognitive functions, but we have a poor understanding of it occurs and how it can alter neural circuit function in the intact CNS. During my postdoctoral studies I established new methods to image neurotransmitter release in entire neurons in intact zebrafish.

I found that non-synaptic release in zebrafish spinal axons can be as frequent as at synapses, and elicit responses in nearby glial cells. Neurotransmitters released non-synaptically in vivo have a potentially broad reach, placing non-synaptic release as a fundamental mode of circuit regulation. Due to their optical and genetic access, I use zebrafish to study intact neurons embedded in their natural circuits and gain insights into this understudied mode of communication in vivo. Furthermore, non-synaptic release involves some proteins typically studied only in synapses and encoded by genes implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders. However, the mechanistic overlap and distinctions in synaptic and non-synaptic release remain unclear, and how dysregulated non-synaptic signalling contributes to such neurodevelopmental disorders is unknown.

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Thus, investigating non-synaptic signaling in vivo will elucidate both the normal workings of the brain and how it malfunctions.

Relevant publications