Faculty of Biological Sciences

Dr Susan Deuchars

BSc, Cardiff; PhD 1992, London
Reader in Neuroscience
School of Biomedical Sciences

Contact:  Garstang G5.53g, +44(0) 113 34 34249, email address for  

Research Interests

Circuitry and plasticity in the spinal cord

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My laboratory has two main areas of research, with a long term interest in controlling autonomic function extending to potential plasticity in the spinal cord and how we can harness this plasticity to help restore function after injury or in specific pathological conditions. 

Worldwide, hypertension and associated cardiovascular problems are on the increase. One currently untapped avenue for treatment is manipulation of areas of the central nervous system involved in cardiovascular control. Our aim is to further current understanding in these areas to open up the possibility of new interventions. Using a multidisciplinary approach we employ neuroanatomical, electrophysiological and molecular biological methods to investigate properties of neuronal circuits in the CNS that underly control of the cardiovascular system.  

The Group


Current Projects

We have a number of projects that focus on how circuitry underlying sympathetic control is organised and how it may be modulated to help maintain homeostasis.

The laboratory is a friendly and productive group, working together using different approaches to produce our research

The heart and circulatory system are controlled in part by the sympathetic nervous system which can be regulated by the brain as well as feedback from the body. A major level of control occurs in the spinal cord where sympathetic preganglionic neurones (SPNs) contribute to the control of heart rate and blood pressure. These SPNs are influenced by pathways from the brain and body which can act via small local cells (interneurones). To date, very little is known about the characteristics of these interneurones - where they are located, which neurones link to these cells, what neurotransmitters they contain and how they talk to the SPNs. We are therefore interested in determining these characteristics since we believe that these cells play a prominent role in the control of the circulation in both health and disease.

We are also interested in how the sympathetic control changes over the course of the day, in aging or in certain conditions such as heart failure.  We have projects investigating whether it is possible to redress the balance of autonomic control so that the sympathetic branch is maintained at suitable levels to avoid cardiovascular problems. These are carried out on human subjects.

Our interest in spinal cord circuitry also extends to plasticity in the system.  Within the spinal cord there are populations of stem cells and precursors that have potential for generation of new neurones, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes.  We have shown that we can manipulate this potential through a number of different mechanisms and have research projects to further understand these mechansims and their potential in models of multiple sclerosis. 

Our research has received support from the British Heart Foundation, The Wellcome Trust, The Royal Society, BBSRC, The Dunhill Trust and Wings for Life.


Faculty Research and Innovation

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Neurogenesis in the spinal cord
  • Autonomic control and maintaining homeostasis

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Neurogenesis in the spinal cord
  • Autonomic control and maintaining homeostasis

See also:

Modules managed

BMSC2231 - Topics in Neuroscience
BMSC3144 - Advanced Topics in Neuroscience I
BMSC3234 - Advanced Topics in Neuroscience II

Modules taught

BMSC1210/SPSC1222 - Biology of the Mind/Neuroscience for Exercise Science
BMSC1213 - Basic Laboratory and Scientific Skills 2
BMSC2118 - Neurobiology
BMSC2119 - Experimental Skills
BMSC2227 - Experimental Skills in Neuroscience
BMSC2231 - Topics in Neuroscience
BMSC2235 - Molecular Neuroscience
BMSC3139 - Systems Neurophysiology
BMSC3140 - Advanced Scientific Skills
BMSC3234/35/36 - Advanced Topics II
BMSC3301 - Research Project in Biomedical Sciences
BMSC3399 - Extended Research Project Preparation
BMSC5382M - Extended Research Project
MEDI2201 - Control and Movement


Member of Undergraduate School Taught Student Education Committee (Programme Manager: Neuroscience)

Centre membership: Neuroscience Research at Leeds (NeuR@L)

Group Leader Dr Susan Deuchars  (Reader in Neuroscience)

Circuitry and plasticity in the spinal cord 

Mrs Brenda Frater  (Research Technician)

Dr Varinder Lall  (Research Fellow)


Norah Altuwaijri (Primary supervisor) 60% FTE
Nurhafizah Binti Ghani (Primary supervisor) 60% FTE
Pierce Mullen (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Lauryn New (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Nazlahshaniza Shafin (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Catherine Colquhoun (Co-supervisor) 35% FTE
Jessica Haigh (Co-supervisor) 20% FTE
Mohd Mahadi (Co-supervisor) 50% FTE
Aaron Murray (Co-supervisor) 40% FTE
Christian Nathan (Co-supervisor) 30% FTE