Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences
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Dr Thomas Becker

The group is interested in the regeneration of the spinal cord.

Dr Thomas Becker

Senior Lecturer/Director MSc in Integrative Neuroscience

  • The Chancellor's Building
  • 49 Little France Crescent
  • EH16 4SB

Contact details

Personal profile

  • 2015 - Present Senior Lecturer and Programme Director, MSc Integrative Neuroscience
  • 2011 - Present Lecturer and Programme Director, MSc Integrative Neuroscience
  • 2005 - Present Senior Researcher, Deanery of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh
  • 2000 - 2005 Group Leader, Centre for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg (ZMNH)
  • 1998 - 2000 Postdoc, Centre for Molecular Neurobiology Hamburg (ZMNH)
  • 1996 - 1998 Postdoc, Dept Dev Cell Biol, University of California, Irvine
  • 1994 - 1996 Postdoc, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich
  • 1993  PhD Neurobiology, University of Bremen


Thomas Becker is the director of the MSc by Research in Integrative Neurocience. 

Research Theme


Zebrafish have an amazing capacity for central nervous system (CNS) regeneration. They regain function after complete lesions of the spinal cord. Such lesions in mammals are not repaired and functions are permanently lost.

Evidence suggests that ependymo-radial glial cells (ERGs) in the spinal cord are crucial for the regeneration process by generating new neurons and facilitating repair of axonal connections (for review see: Becker and Becker, 2015, Neuronal Regeneration from Ependymo-radial Glial Cells: Cook, Little Pot, Cook! Developmental Cell 32(4):516-27). Recent BBSRC funding allows us to ask two fundamental questions:

  • How can zebrafish replace lost neurons from adult stem cells?
  • What are the signals that promote neuronal regeneration?

To address these questions, we study gene regulation in ERGs that leads to reprogramming of quiescent ERGs for neurogenesis after a lesion, focussing on histone acetylation and we analyse immune signals as mediators of the regenerative response.

By analysing development and regeneration of important cell types in the zebrafish we hope to gain insight into fundamental developmental and regenerative mechanisms in the CNS, and to ultimately increase our understanding of human conditions, such as spinal cord injury. We closely collaborate with the group of Catherina Becker.

Group Members



Selected Publications

* Equal contributions

Lindsey J. Caldwell, Nick O. Davies, Leonardo Cavone, Karolina S. Mysiak, Svetlana A. Semenova, Pertti Panula, J. Douglas Armstrong, Catherina G. Becker and Thomas Becker (2019) Regeneration of Dopaminergic Neurons in Adult Zebrafish Depends on Immune System Activation and Differs for Distinct Populations, J Neurosci.12;39(24):4694-4713 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2706-18.2019

Tsarouchas TM, Wehner D, Cavone L, Munir T, Keatinge M, Lambertus M, Underhill A, Barrett T, Kassapis E, Ogryzko N, Feng Y, van Ham TJ, Becker T, Becker CG (2018) Dynamic control of proinflammatory cytokines Il-1β and Tnf-α by macrophages is necessary for functional spinal cord regeneration in zebrafish, Nature Communication 7;9(1):4670 DOI: 10.1101/332197

Caldwell L J, Davies NO, Cavone L, Mysiak KS, Semenova SA, Panula P, Armstrong JD, Becker CG*, Becker T* (2018) Regeneration of dopaminergic neurons in adult zebrafish depends on immune system activation and differs for distinct populations. BioRxiv doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/367151

Becker CG*, Becker T*, Hugnot JP* (2018) The spinal ependymal zone as a source of endogenous repair cells across vertebrates. Prog Neurobiol 170, 67-80 (2018).

Wehner D, Tsarouchas TM, Michael A, Haase C, Weidinger G, Reimer MM, Becker T*, Becker CG* (2017) Wnt signaling controls a pro-regenerative extracellular matrix in functional spinal cord regeneration, Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00143-0

Cardozo MJ, Mysiak KS, Becker T, Becker CG (2017) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Developmental Signals in Spinal Cord Regeneration. Developmental Biology DOI 10.1016/j.ydbio.2017.05.011

Boyd PJ, Tu WY, Shorrock HK, Powis RA, Groen EJN, Thomson SR, Thomson D, Graham LC, Wishart TM, Highley JR, Becker T, Becker CG, Heath PR, Gillingwater TH (2017) Bioenergetic status determines motor neuron vulnerability in spinal muscular atrophy, PLoS Genetics 13(4):e1006744

Ohnmacht J, Yang Y, Maurer GW, Barreiro-Iglesias A, Tsarouchas TM, Wehner D, Sieger D, Becker CG*, Becker T* (2016).  Spinal Motor Neurons are Regenerated after Mechanical Lesion and Genetic Ablation in Larval Zebrafish.  Development 143:1464-1474

Barreiro-Iglesias A, Mysiak KS, Scott AL, Reimer MM, Yang YJ, Becker CG*, Becker T* (2015).  Serotonin Promotes Development and Regeneration of Spinal Motor Neurons in Zebrafish. Cell Reports 13(5):924-32

Wishard TM, Mutsaers CA, Riesland M, Reimer MM, Fuller HR, Hannam ML, Morse R, Young PJ, Lamont DJ, Hammerschmidt M, Morris GE, Parson SH, Skehel PA, Becker T, Robinson IM, Becker CG, Wirth B, Gillingwater TH (2014).  Dysregulation of Ubiquitin Homeostasis and β-catenin Signalling Promote Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Journal of Clinical Investigation 124(4):1821-34.

Sleigh JN, Barreiro-Iglesias A, Oliver PL, Biba A, Becker T, Davies KE, Becker CG, Talbot K. (2013) Chondrolectin affects cell survival and neuronal outgrowth in in vitro and in vivo models of spinal muscular atrophy. Hum Mol Genet 23(4):855-69

Reimer MM, Norris A, Ohnmacht J, Patani R, Zhong Z, Dias TB, Kuscha V, Scott AL, Chen Y, Rozov S, Frazer SL, Wyatt C, Higashijima S, Patton EE, Panula P, Chandran S, Becker T*, Becker CG* (2013) Dopamine signaling from the brain augments spinal motor neuron generation during development and adult regeneration via hedgehog pathway activation, Dev Cell 25(5): 478-491

Zhong Z, Ohnmacht J, Reimer MM, Bach I, Becker T, Becker CG (2012) Chondrolectin mediates growth cone interactions of motor axons with an intermediate target. J Neurosci 32(13):4426-39

Dias TB, Yang YJ, Ogai K, Molist P, Becker T*, Becker CG* (2012) Notch signalling controls generation of motor neurons in the lesioned spinal cord of adult zebrafish. J Neurosci 32(9):3245-52