Pain Centre Versus Arthritis

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Tobias Bast

Associate Professor, Faculty of Science




2002: PhD, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich

1999: Diploma in Biochemistry (subsidiary subjects: Biopsychology and Philosophy), Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany


2018: Associate Professor, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham

2008: Lecturer, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham

2005: Caledonian Research Foundation Fellow, Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems, University of Edinburgh,UK

2003: Research fellow, Division of Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh, UK

1999: Research associate/ Scientist, Behavioural Neurobiology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich

1998: Studentische Hilfskraft (undergraduate assistant), Biopsychology Group, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany

Expertise Summary

Brain mechanisms of cognition and behaviour and of cognitive and behavioural deficits; hippocampus; prefrontal cortex; learning and memory; behavioural testing; in vivo electrophysiology; rodent models

Teaching Summary

My main teaching interests are in the areas of neuroscience and biological psychology. I contribute to undergraduate (across all three years) and postgraduate teaching within the School of Psychology… read more

Research Summary

My research examines how a brain circuit consisting of the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and connected subcortical sites mediates and integrates important cognitive functions, including… read more

Selected Publications

PhD theses (2018 onwards) I have had the pleasure to supervise can be found here.

I offer projects through the BBSRC Doctoral Training Programme. This programme has a January application deadline for PhD projects starting in September. An outline of the current project I offer can be found here. If you have questions in relation to these projects, please feel free to contact me.

If you have secured your own funding or have a specific funding scheme in mind and you would like to work towards a PhD with me, please email me. Suitable candidates would typically have some relevant research experience (e.g., from undergraduate or MSc projects).

Occasionally, funding may become available for specific PhD projects, which I will advertise on this page and on other suitable job pages.

My main teaching interests are in the areas of neuroscience and biological psychology. I contribute to undergraduate (across all three years) and postgraduate teaching within the School of Psychology and previously also contributed some teaching to a Neuroscience module in Life Sciences.

Year 1

Psychology of Addiction (PSGY1005). Handouts for my lecture can be found here.

Biological Psychology (PSGY1003). Handouts for my lectures can be found here.

1st Year Tutorials: Information can be found here.

Year 2

Neuroscience and Behaviour (PSGY2007/4029). Handouts for my lectures can be found here.

2nd Year Tutorials: Information can be found here.

Year 3

Mechanisms of Learning and Psychopathology (PSGY3018). Handouts for my lectures can be found here.

Research Project. A description of the project and project-related material can be found here.

MSc Psychology (Conversion)

Material for my Neuroscience and Behaviour (PSGY4029) seminars can be found here.

MSc Cognitive Neuroscience

Material for my lecture and seminar in Functional Imaging Methods can be found here.

MSc projects

Information about the MSc projects I offer to supervise can be found here.

Previous Teaching

Sensational Neuroscience (LIFE3082), Year 3/4, Neuroscience, School of Life Sciences. Handouts for my lectures and the workshop can be found here.

Statistical and Research Methods, Year 2. Handouts and material for my lectures can be found here.

Practical, Year 2. Handouts for the lecture in week 1 can be found here.

Mind and Brain, Year 3. Handouts for my lectures can be found here.

BAP Preclinical Certificate Course, Module 8: Combining Neurobiology and Behaviour.

Current Research

My research examines how a brain circuit consisting of the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and connected subcortical sites mediates and integrates important cognitive functions, including everyday-type memory (e.g., memory for places and events) and attention, and other behavioural processes (emotional, motivational, sensorimotor). In addition, I study how dysfunction in this neural circuit causes cognitive and behavioural deficits. My major approach to address these questions is to combine sophisticated behavioural testing with a wide range of in vivo neuroscience methods to analyse and manipulate brain function in rat models. A concise overview of main lines of research and key underlying ideas can be found in our recent reviews (Bast, 2011, Curr Opin Neurobiol; Bast et al., 2017, Br J Pharmacol). More recently, I have also begun to apply translational behavioural tests, similar to the tests we use in animal models, in human participants to facilitate the translation of our neurobiolgical findings from animal models to humans. In addition, I have begun collaborating with mathematicians and computational neuroscientists in order to develop quantitative models of neuro-behavioural processes and to apply more sophisticated statistical analyses to our neuro-behavioural data.

Current lines of research

Hippocampo-prefrontal/subcortical interactions mediating the hippocampal learning-behaviour translation: Continuing work on the hippocampal learning-behaviour translation (Bast et al, 2009, PLoS Biol; also see press release), we aim to identify prefrontal and subcortical mechanisms underlying behavioural performance based on hippocampus-dependent rapid-place learning and to characterize how the hippocampus interacts with these sites. We have begun to collaborate with Stephen Coombes and colleagues (Mathematics, University of Nottingham) to integrate relevant neurobiological findings into neuro-computational models (Tessereau et al., 2021, Brain Neurosci Adv).

Less can be more - the significance of GABAergic neuronal inhibition for cognition and behaviour and the contribution of neural disinhibition to clinically relevant cognitive and behavioural deficits: GABAergic inhibition has been shown to be important for shaping neural activity, and neural disinhibition, i.e. GABA dysfunction, has been implicated in many brain disorders, including schizophrenia, cognitive ageing, Alzheimer's disease and Tourette's. We examine how GABAergic inhibition in distinct brain regions, including hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and striatum, contributes to distinct cognitive and behavioural functions and to explore new pharmacological treatment strategies ameliorating the neuro-behavioural consequences of neural disinhibition. To this end, we study the neural-network effects and behavioural/cognitive deficits resulting from brain region-specific manipulations of GABAergic inhibition in rodent models [Pezze et al, 2014, J Neurosci; McGarrity et al, 2017, Cereb Cortex; Bast et al., 2017, Br J Pharmacol; Gwilt et al., 2020, Hippocampus; Williams et al., 2022, eNeuro; also see press releases, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2022 an interview (in German), and popular science article (Bast, 2019, Gehirn & Geist (in German); French, Spanish, Italian version)].

Hippocampo-prefrontal-subcortical circuit and aversive stimulus processing - fear memory and pain: Previous research, including our own, revealed a key role for the hippocampo-prefrontal-subcortical circuit in fear memory (e.g., Bast et al, 2003, Hippocampus; Pezze et al, 2003, Cereb Cortex; Heath et al, 2015, Psychopharmacology; Wang et al, 2015, Hippocampus). I continue collaborative research into the role of this circuit in fear behaviour in collaboration with Carl Stevenson (Biosciences, University of Nottingham) (e.g., Stubbendorff et al, 2019, Psychopharmacology). Recently, I have also become interested in how this circuit is implicated in chronic pain conditions. We have begun translational studies to examine how chronic pain affects components within the hippocampo-prefrontal-subcortical circuit, as well as the cognitive and behavioural functions mediated by these components in rat models (Gonçalves et al., 2023, J Pain; press release) and patients with chronic pain (Kouraki et al., 2022, Sci Reports; press release) (in collaboration with colleagues at the Versus Arthritis Pain Centre and in Life Sciences, University of Nottingham).

New applications of radiological and translational brain imaging methods in rodents: Methods developed for the non-invasive imaging of the human brain (MRI and other radiologic imaging methods) could substantially complement the neurobiological approaches traditionally used to characterise brain structure and function in rodent models. In several projects we are adapting such methods for new applications in rodent models. We developed Ratlas-LH, an open access in vivo MRI atlas of the Lister hooded brain (Prior et al., 2021, Brain Neurosci Adv; press release).

Application of computational methods: In collaboration with mathematicians and computational neuroscientists, we use computational methods to integrate neuro-behavioural data into quantitative models (Tessereau et al., 2021, Brain Neurosci Adv) and to analyse our neural (Gwilt et al., 2020, Hippocampus) and behavioural (Maggi et al., 2023, bioRxiv) data. These interdisciplinary efforts to link mathematical methods and neuroscience hold great potential to maximise the conceptual insights gained from neuroscience experiments.

Studies of human cognition, using translational behavioral tests similar to our rodent paradigms: We have adapted a key rodent test of hippocampus-dependent rapid place learning, the delayed-matching-to-place (DMP) watermaze test (Bast et al, 2009, PLoS Biol; da Silva et al., 2014, Learn Memory), for human testing, using a virtual maze on a computer (Buckley & Bast, 2018, Hippocampus). In line with findings in rats that the DMP watermaze task is a highly sensitive assay of hippocampal function, we have shown that good performance of human participants on the virtual DMP test is associated with specific neural activity patterns in the medial temporal lobe, including hippocampus (Bauer et al., 2021, Brain Neurosci Adv; press release). Studies using this new virtual maze task, and other translational behavioral tests, in human participants have great potential to facilitate translation of findings from rodent model studies to humans. I have also contributed to studies on cognitive function in retired professional footballers (McNab et al., 2023, Sports Med Open; Espahbodi et al., 2023, JAMA Open Netw; press release), where we planned to use translational behavioral tests, but due to the Covid pandemic we had to change our plans and use telephone cognitive assessments (Espahbodi et al., 2022, BMJ Open).

Pain Centre Versus Arthritis

Clinical Sciences Building
City Hospital
Nottingham, NG5 1PB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 823 1766 ext 31766
fax: +44 (0) 115 823 1757