The Psychopharmacology Laboratory

Pharmacology is the science dealing with the preparation, uses, and effects of drugs. Psychopharmacology is the branch of pharmacology that specifically explores the psychological effects of drugs.

Psychopharmacology aims to understand how chemical changes in the brain can influence cognitive and behavioural function. This laboratory is designed to support research in this area, supported by the multimodal neuroimaging capabilities of the other BRIC facilities. Psychopharmacology research at BRIC explores the effect of specific drugs on brain function, in health and disease, to inform us about the mechanisms of the human mind and support the development of effective treatments for neurological disorders.

Establishing techniques using integrated neuroimaging

Researchers at BRIC have developed techniques using integrated neuroimaging, to visualise the areas of the human brain that respond to different drugs. Research by Psychopharmacology Laboratory Lead, Professor Stephen Hall and colleagues, shows the specific brain regions affected by the administration of drugs that stimulate the GABA systems in the brain. 

These techniques, such as pharmaco-MEG, show how brain areas where GABA receptors are present change their activity over time as the drug is absorbed into the brain.

This research has been used to show the specific mechanisms by which these drugs affect the sensory and motor systems in the cortex and how this relates to our ability to perform different movement tasks. This research has been used to understand how specific drugs are effective in improving function in neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.

This non-invasive human research, in collaboration with colleagues at other institutions shows remarkable capability to replicate the observations of invasive animal recordings, providing novel opportunity to progress toward reliable human models of drug action.

Exploring anxiety using the carbon dioxide experimental model

Located in the Psychopharmacology laboratory, is a state-of-the-art apparatus for the controlled introduction of anxiety effects to cognitive and behavioural experiments. 

The carbon dioxide (CO2) challenge technique involves the introduction of CO2 at 7.5%, which produces physiological changes in breathing and heart-rate that mimics the effects of increased anxiety.

This approach can be used for the reliable manipulation of anxiety symptoms, in order to determine the role that stress plays in a wide range of basic and complex functions. 

The equipment can also be used to introduce higher levels of CO2, to mimic the effects of panic disorder.

Ongoing research in this lab, by Dr Matt Roser, Lecturer in Psychology and colleagues are exploring the role of anxiety in the experience of pain in health and in conditions such as fibromyalgia.

Research expertise

Lab lead: Stephen Hall, Professor of Human Neuroimaging and Director of the Brain Research & Imaging Centre

Other research in this laboratory will be carried out by: Dr Matt RoserProfessor Jonathan Marsden

Key publications

Gaetz W, Rhodes E, Bloy L, Blaskey L, Jackel CR, Brodkin ES, Waldman A, Embick D, Hall S, Roberts TP. (2019). Evaluating motor cortical oscillations and age-related change in autism spectrum disorder. Neuroimage. 11:116349. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116349.

Prokic E., Woodhall, GL, Williams AC, Stanford IM,, Hall SD. (2019). Bradykinesia is driven by cumulative beta power during continuous movement and alleviated by GABAergic modulation in Parkinson’s disease. Frontiers in Neurology 10: 1298.

Gorst T, Freeman J, Yarrow K, Marsden J. Assessing Plantar Sensation in the Foot Using the Foot Roughness Discrimination Test (FoRDT): A Reliability and Validity Study in Stroke. PM R. 2019 Jan 28. doi: 10.1002/pmrj.12085. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30690894.

Gorst T, Freeman J, Yarrow K, Marsden J. Assessing lower limb position sense in stroke using the gradient discrimination test (GradDT™) and step-height discrimination test (StepDT™): a reliability and validity study. Disabil Rehabil.2019 Jan 14:1-9. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2018.1554008. [Epub ahead of print] PubMedPMID: 30636492.

Exploratory Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial of Botulinum Therapy on Grasp Release After Stroke (PrOMBiS) Amanda Claire Wallace, PhD1, Penelope Talelli, PhD2, Lucinda Crook1, Duncan Austin, MSc1, Rachel Farrell, PhD1, 3, Damon Hoad, MBBS1, Aidan G. O’Keeffe, PhD4, Jonathan F. Marsden, PhD5, Richard Fitzpatrick, PhD6, Richard Greenwood, MD3, John C. Rothwell, PhD1, David J. Werring, PhD1, 3 Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair 2019

Logan A, Freeman J, Kent B, Pooler J, Creanor S, Vickery J, Enki D, Barton A, Marsden J. Standing Practice In Rehabilitation Early after Stroke (SPIRES): a functional standing frame programme (prolonged standing and repeated sit to stand) to improve function and quality of life and reduce neuromuscular impairment in people with severe sub-acute stroke-a protocol for a feasibility randomised controlled trial. Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2018 Mar 23;4:66. doi:10.1186/s40814-018-

Denton AL, Hough AD, Freeman JA, Marsden JF. Effects of superficial heating and insulation on walking speed in people with hereditary and spontaneous spastic paraparesis: A randomised crossover study. Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2018 Mar;61(2):72-77. doi: 10.1016/

Allison R, Kilbride C, Chynoweth J, Creanor S, Frampton I, Marsden J. What is the longitudinal profile of impairments and can we predict difficulty caring for the profoundly-affected arm in the first year post-stroke? Arch Phys Med Rehabil.2018 v99 , 3 pp433-442.

Rhodes E. Gaetz W, Marsden J and Hall SD. (2018). Transient alpha and beta synchrony underlies preparatory recruitment of directional motor networks. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 0(6):867-875. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01250.

Nielsen G, Buszewicz M, Stevenson F, Hunter R, Holt K, Dudziec M, Ricciardi L, Marsden J, Joyce E, Edwards MJ. Randomised feasibility study of physiotherapy for patients with functional motor symptoms. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2016 pii: jnnp-2016-314408. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2016-314408.

Ofori J, Freeman J, Logan A, Rapson R, Zajieck J, Hobart J, Marsden J. An investigation of commonly prescribed stretches of the ankle plantarflexors in people with Multiple Sclerosis. Clin Biomech 2016;37:22-6.

Amesz S, Tessari A, Ottoboni G, Marsden J. An observational study of implicit motor imagery using laterality recognition of the hand after stroke. Brain Inj. 2016;30(8):999-1004.

Denton A, Bunn L, Hough A, Bugmann G, Marsden J. Superficial warming and cooling of the leg affects walking speed and neuromuscular impairments in people with spastic paraparesis. Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2016 Dec;59(5-6):326-332.

Tustin K, Gimeno H, Morton E, Marsden J. Rater reliability and scoring duration of the Quality Function Measure in ambulant children with hyperkinetic movement disorders. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2016 Aug;58(8):822.

Glasser S, Collings R, Paton J, Marsden J. Effect of experimentally reduced distal sensation on postural response to hip abductor/ankle evertor muscle vibration. Gait Posture. 2015 Jul;42(2):193-8.

Prokic EJ, Weston C, Yamawaki N, Hall SD, Jones RS, Stanford IM, Ladds G, Woodhall GL. (2015).Cortical oscillatory dynamics and benzodiazepine-site modulation of tonic inhibition in fastspiking interneurons. Neuropharmacology. 20; 95:192-205.

Bunn LM, Marsden JF, Voyce DC, Giunti P, Day BL. Sensorimotor processing for balance in spinocerebellar ataxia type 6. Mov Disord. 2015 Apr 16. doi: 10.1002/mds.26227.

Bunn LM, Marsden JF, Giunti P, Day BL. (2015)Training balance with opto-kinetic stimuli in the home: a randomised controlled feasibility study in people with pure cerebellar disease. Clin Rehabil.;29(2):143-53.


Enhancing research through BRIC

The BRIC facility will provide us with the opportunity to study psychiatric medicines and their effect on social behaviour in a safe setting with medical supervision and 24/7 medical support. This will allow to study the effect of widely prescribed drugs and their psychological effects better. The laboratory will also benefit from:

  • bed and rest-room for participants
  • electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • heart rate monitor
  • fridge to store saliva samples.