Arish Mudra Rakshasa-Loots

PhD Researcher, Translational Neuroscience


Arish Mudra Rakshasa-Loots (he/him) is a neuroscientist, educator, and activist. He is currently completing a PhD in Translational Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where his work is funded by the Wellcome Trust, with additional funding from the University of Edinburgh, the South African MRC Extramural Unit on the Genomics of Brain Disorders, and the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation. Arish obtained a BA in Liberal Arts from Earlham College in the US, where he majored in Biochemistry and Neuroscience and minored in Ancient & Classical Studies. His broad undergraduate training lends itself to his versatility as a scholar, with academic publications, conference presentations, and awards in disciplines ranging from computational biophysics to postcolonialism. Arish is a recipient of the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, through which he travelled to many different parts of the world to engage with HIV/AIDS healthcare and grassroots activism. Arish’s experiences as a queer brown immigrant in the West have driven his passion for global leadership and his awareness of modern systemic inequalities. He is particularly committed to the eradication of HIV/AIDS, which disproportionately affects marginalised populations such as the LGBTQ+ community. Arish aspires to train the next generation of conscientious, passionate scientists as an educator and contribute to global intersectional campaigns to end the AIDS pandemic.


BA in Liberal Arts: Earlham College, Richmond, IN, USA

Responsibilities & affiliations

British Neuroscience Association (BNA); African Neuroscience Alliance (ANA); Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS); Southern African Neuroscience Society (SANS); Phi Beta Kappa; Psi Chi Honor Society for Psychology/Neuroscience; Association for the Coaching & Tutoring Profession (ACTP)

Undergraduate teaching

Lead Instructor Condom Sense: HIV/AIDS in the 21st Century (Earlham College: interdisciplinary/Biology)

Facilitator General Neuroscience (University of Edinburgh: Neuro Hons)

Guest Lecturer Neurobiology of Cognition in Health and Disease (University of Edinburgh: Neuro Hons); Research Methods (University of Edinburgh: EASTBIO PhD programme); Introduction to Neuroscience (University of St. Thomas)

Current research interests

Arish's primary research interests lie at the intersection of HIV and mental health. He is particularly motivated to explore possible neurobiological mechanisms which may explain the significant burden of mental health issues faced by people living with HIV. Arish is also passionate about diversity and inclusion in scientific research.

Past research interests

During his PhD training at Edinburgh, Arish worked with Dr. Emily Sena and Dr. Gill Currie on a systematic review of preclinical modelling of virus-associated peripheral neuropathies, with Dr. Heather Whalley investigating links between inflammation, reward processing, and depression, and with Prof Sharon Prince (University of Cape Town) studying the effects of repurposed drugs on glioblastoma cell viability. In the past, Arish has worked in fields ranging from behavioural neuroscience (with Dr. Michelle Tong) to computational biophysics (with Dr. Michael Lerner) and virology (with Dr. Lindsey McGee), among others.

Affiliated research centres


Organiser and Co-Chair: "HIV mental health: where are we headed?" Symposium at the BNA Festival of Neuroscience 2023, Brighton, UK.

Papers delivered

Mudra Rakshasa-Loots, A., Hamana, T., Fanqa, B., Lindani, F., van Wyhe, K., Kruger, S., Robertson, F., Meintjies, E., and Laughton, B. (2023). Brain choline and myo-inositol do not mediate the association between HIV and depressive symptoms in an adolescent sample. Society for Neuroscientists of Africa (SONA) 2023, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Mudra Rakshasa-Loots, A., Hamana, T., Fanqa, B., Lindani, F., van Wyhe, K., Kruger, S., and Laughton, B. (2023). isiXhosa translation of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) shows satisfactory psychometric properties for the measurement of depressive symptoms. Society for Neuroscientists of Africa (SONA) 2023, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Mudra Rakshasa-Loots, A., Dowell, N.G., Ronen, I., and Vera, J.H. (2023). Imaging neuroinflammation and blood-brain barrier permeability in people living with HIV and severe depression. British Neuroscience Association (BNA) Festival of Neuroscience, Brighton, UK.

Mudra Rakshasa-Loots, A., Whalley, H.C., Laughton, B., Vera, J.H., & Cox, S.R. (2022). Neuroinflammation may hold the key to decoding depression in HIV. Novel Mechanisms, Tools and Therapies in Neuroinflammation, London, UK.

Mudra Rakshasa-Loots, A., Bakewell, N., Sharp, D., Gisslen, M., Zetterberg, H., Alagaratnam, J., Wit, F., Kootstra, N., Winston, A., Reiss, P., Sabin, C., and Vera, J.H., on behalf of the COmorBidity in Relation to AIDS (COBRA) cohort. (2023). (Neuro)inflammatory biomarkers mediate the association between HIV and depression. Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), Seattle, USA.

Mudra Rakshasa-Loots, A., Laughton, B., and others. (2022). Measuring depression across cultures and languages: lessons from South Africa. TRIUMPH Fest, Edinburgh, UK.

Mudra Rakshasa-Loots, A., Naidoo, S., & Saal, W. (2022). Decoding depression in HIV: does neuroinflammation predict degree of depression severity amongst people living with HIV? African Collaboration for Leadership and Capacity-Building in Neuroscience (ALLIANCE), Cape Town, WC, South Africa.

Mudra Rakshasa-Loots, A., Khan, S.F., Damerell, V., & Prince, S. (2021). TBX2/TBX3-targeting non-oncological drugs limit glioblastoma cell viability. National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Festival, virtual.

Mudra Rakshasa, A., Stolicyn, A., Green, C., de Nooij, L., Shen, X., Lawrie, S.M., McIntosh, A.M., Romaniuk, L., & Whalley, H.C. (2021). “Feeling Run Down”: Links Between Inflammation and Disrupted Reward Processing in Depression. British Neuroscience Association (BNA) Festival of Neuroscience, virtual.

Mudra Rakshasa, A., Soliman, N., Sena, E., & Currie, G. (2020). Can’t Feel My Face: A Systematic Review of Whole Animal Models of HIV- and Herpes Zoster-Induced Neuropathic Pain. Southern African Neuroscience Society (SANS) Symposium, virtual.

Mudra Rakshasa, A., & Tong, M.T. (2019). Social Interaction in Mice Mitigates Chronic Stress-Induced Erraticism in Decision-Making. West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference (WCBSUR), San Diego, CA, USA.

Mudra Rakshasa, A. (2018). Watchdogs and Underdogs: Media Narratives of the 2017-18 Qatar Diplomatic Crisis. Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research, Pasadena, CA, USA.

Hedinger, M., Kelner, N., Nguyen, K., Pagan, J., Mudra Rakshasa, A., Rickerman, C., & McGee, L. (2017). The effects of bacteriophage hybridization on host range. Earlham College Annual Research Conference, Richmond, IN, USA.

Earley, C.J., Maxson, P.F., Mudra Rakshasa, A., Carlson, H.A., & Lerner, M.G. (2017). Correlated motions in the DHFR-NADPH complex. Biophysical Society Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, USA.