Centre for Integrative Physiology

Prof Gareth Leng

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

Gareth Leng (FRSE)

Professor of Experimental Physiology

  • Hugh Robson Building
  • room 173
  • 15 George Square

Contact details



Edinburgh EH8 9XD

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


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

  • European Commission Framework 4, 5, 6 and 7
  • The Wellcome Trust
  • Medical Research Council
  • Merck & Co
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Team members

  • Nancy Sabatier (Postdoctoral fellow)
  • Duncan Macgregor (Postdoctoral fellow)
  • John Menzies (Postdoctoral fellow)
  • Fabrice Plaisier (Postdoctoral fellow)
  • Amy Warnock (PhD student)
  • Jorge Maicas Royo (PhD student)
  • Catherine Hume (PhD student)


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:

  • Suzanne Dickson (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and other members of the Diabesity consortium (http://www.diabesity.eu/)
  • Yoiche Ueta (Kitakyushu, Japan)
  • Tatsushi Onaka (Jichi, Japan)
  • Jianfeng Feng (University of Warwick)
  • Colin Brown (University of Otago, New Zealand)

Selected publications

Chen SJ, Yang JF, Kong FP, Ren JL, Hao K, Li M, Yuan Y, Chen XC, Yu RS, Li JF, Leng G, Chen XQ, Du JZ. (2014) Overactivation of corticotropin-releasing factor receptor type 1 and aquaporin-4 by hypoxia induces cerebral edema.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 21.

Tobin VA, Hashimoto H, Wacker DW, Takayanagi Y, Langnaese K, Caquineau C, Noack J, Landgraf R, Onaka T, Leng G, Meddle SL, Engelmann M, Ludwig M (2010) An intrinsic vasopressin system in the olfactory bulb is involved in social recognition. Nature 464:413-7

Rossoni E, Feng J, Tirozzi B, Brown D, Leng G, Moos F (2008) Emergent synchronous bursting of oxytocin neuronal network. PLoS Computl Biol Jul 18;4(7):e1000123

Johnstone LE, Fong TM, Leng G (2006) Neuronal activation in the hypothalamus and brainstem during feeding in rats. Cell Metabol 4:313-21. PMID: 17011504

Ludwig M, Leng G (2006) Dendritic peptide release and peptide-dependent behaviours. Nature Neurosci Reviews 7:126-136

Sabatier N, Caquineau C, Bull P, Douglas AJ, Dayanithi G, Guan XM, Jiang M, Van der Ploeg L, Leng G (2003) Alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone stimulates oxytocin release from the dendrites of hypothalamic neurons while inhibiting oxytocin release from their terminals in the neurohypophysis J Neurosci 23:10351-10358

Ludwig M, Sabatier N, Bull PM, Landgraf R, Dayanithi G, Leng G. (2002) Intracellular calcium stores regulate activity-dependent neuropeptide release from dendrites. Nature 418: 85-89

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)