Laboratory of Motor and Sensory Systems

Lab head: Haydn Allbutt
Location: F13 - Anderson Stuart Building

Dr Haydn Allbutt's laboratory is interested in investigating how Parkinson's disease is initiated. In addition we use the deficits associated with Parkinson's disease to give us some clues as to how the body moves and senses its environment.

Specific interests:

  • The number of mechanisms implicated in the development of Parkinson's Disease, and the number of nuclei that are affected are too many and varied for each mechanism to have arisen independently. Instead a single disturbance is likely to result in all the downstream effects observed. We are involved in investigating how glia may result in the changes observed in Parkinson's Disease.


  • One of the very earliest and most common symptoms of PD in humans is loss of smell. We are interested in examining how this process is disrupted and what this might tell us about the early stages of the disease.


  • While we have begun understanding some of what the brain does, the exact mechanisms for how it performs simple tasks are not known. We aim to examine the pathways used by the brain for voluntary movement.


Student projects currently underway:

  • Development of a new model of Parkinson's Disease


  • Investigation into olfaction as an early symptom of Parkinson's Disease


Lab members: H Allbutt (head)

The cause of all "neurodegenerative" diseases

Primary supervisor: Haydn Allbutt

  1. Examine the new model of Parkinson's disease that we have developed to see if the same characteristic pathologies associated with the disease in humans also develop. To date we have examined loss of dopaminergic neurons in the nigra and dopamine in the striatum, metabolic changes generally in the nigra and striatum, as well as for deficits specifically in complex I of the mitochondrial transport chain, changes in the levels of early and late apoptosis and glial cell changes. Our next aim is to examine our model for changes in glutathione and iron levels in the substantia nigra to see if it accurately reproduces these pathologies.
  2. This project is an exciting project that has two stages. The first stage will be to work on developing a new test of olfaction, the hole-board olfactory test, using normal rats. The reason for this is that along with the characteristic shaking associated with To develop a blood test based on our model of Parkinson's disease that can detect characteristic changes that occur prior to any neuronal loss. If successful this test may form the basis of a cheap and easy screening test for pre-Parkinson's disease which would allow preventative treatments to be initiated prior to any neuronal loss occurring thus effectively preventing the disease.
  3. To further develop our rat model of Parkinson's disease to make it more accurately model the human condition.

Discipline: Physiology