Dr Trevor Humby BSc (Hons) Sussex, PhD Cambridge

Dr Trevor Humby

BSc (Hons) Sussex, PhD Cambridge

Senior Lecturer

School of Psychology

Email:
humbyt@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 6758
Location:
Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT

Research summary

My research interests, as part of the Behavioural Genetics Group, are centred   on the effects of imprinted genes and epigenetic changes on brain development   and the long-term impact on cognition, behaviour and underlying neuronal   development and function.  Genetic imprinting refers to the 'parent of origin’   specific marking of a gene, where an allele may be expressed or repressed   dependant on whether it is derived from the maternal or paternal germline.  This   expression/repression is controlled by epigenetic markers (e.g. methylation and   acetylation of histones) that govern and configure how a gene is expressed and   can hence function.  Imprinted genes are critically important during early   development in utero and impact on placental function, controlling the   nutrient requirements of the foetus and/or the demands of the foetus upon the   mother.  Dysfunction of imprinted genes, by over expression of a 'normally’   repressed gene or under expression of a 'normally’ expressed gene, leads to a   number of clinical conditions such as Beckwith-Weidemann Syndrome, Prader-Willi   syndrome, Angelman’s and may be contributory to other clinical conditions such   as ADHD, OCD, autism and schizophrenia

Other research interests are directed towards understanding the genetic   issues that underlie brain function, most notably in terms of diseases such as   Alzheimer’s, FTDP-17 and ADHD.  Fronto-temporal Dementia with Parkinson linked   to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17) is a form of dementia that affects nearly as many   people as Alzheimer's disease and shares a similar pathology but leads to a   different range of cognitive and behavioural problems.  Using a transgenic mouse   model expressing a human gene incorporating a mutation known to cause FTDP-17,   our work in this area is investigating the range of cognitive problems found and   how they change with age and then to identifying the underlying neurobiological   causes.

For more information on the Behavioural Genetics Group - visit http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/behavioural-genetics/

I have also become interested in the role of cognitive dysfunction in  dyslexia – most notably working memory impairments, and  have collaborated with Neil Cottrell, a recent  graduate from the school  and I have an on-going interest in impulse control and decision making.

Teaching summary

Levels 1 and 2: I teach introductory lectures on individual differences  (intelligence, personality and abnormal psychology) at level 1 (PS1016).   At level 2, I teach in the abnormal and clinical psychology module (PSD2018)  with lectures covering PTSD, ADHD and neurodegenerative diseases.  I run a  level 2 perception practical and also final year projects.  I am module  co-ordinator for PS2018 and have responsibility for the summer research  opportunities scheme for level 2 students (UROP). I have supervised final year  projects with a wide variety of subjects.

Undergraduate education

Bachelor of Science (with Honours) in Neurobiology, University of Sussex

Postgraduate education

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge.
Thesis title, 'Effects of   mutations of genes involved in familial Alzheimer’s disease on behavioural and   neural functioning’.
Supervisor: Dr. Lawrence Wilkinson.

Memberships

British Association of Psychopharmacology (BAP, since 1990)

British Neuroscience Association (BNA, since 1989)

Society for Neuroscience (SFN, since 2000)

The Genetics Society (since 2009)

Other

Reviewer of submitted manuscripts for European Journal of Neuroscience,   Psychopharmacology, Behavioural Brain Research, Journal of   Psychopharmacology

Honours and awards

Awards/external committees

Recipient of Oon Khye Beng Ch’hia Tsio prize research scholarship for   preventative medicine offered by Downing College, Cambridge. (1998-2001).

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Research topics and related papers

Research focuses on the role of genetics in neurological disorders and brain   function/dysfunction.   This work involves the design and implementation of   novel behavioural tasks for assessing cognition in gene manipulation or   transgenic mouse models of human disorders and subsequent investigation of the   underlying neurobiological changes.  Particular areas of interest:

  • investigating the possible importance of imprinted genes in early   development and the putative long term effects dysfunction may have of adult   cognition and behaviour (supervision of PhD student Mikael Mikaelsson) in   collaboration with Miguel Constancia (University of Cambridge)
  • investigating the mechanisms of gene dysfunction in schizophrenia and   effects on cognition (supervision of PhD students Tamara Al-Janabi and Jess   Eddy) in collaboration with Mike Owen and Mick O’Donovan (School of Medicine,   Cardiff)
  • investigating the relationship between tau-related pathology and cognition   in a transgenic mouse model of fronto-temporal dementia in collaboration with   Maria Grazia Spillantini (University of Cambridge)
  • investigating the role of imprinted genes on brain function in collaboration   with Will Davies, Anthony Isles and Lawrence Wilkinson
  • investigating the role of X and Y chromosome genes in ADHD in collaboration   with Will Davies
  • investigating the electrophysiological signatures of different brain regions   during performance of paradigms which assess impulse control (SARTE   consortium).

Funding

Genes and  Development Summer Studentship, The Genetics Society: Investigating social  memory and interactions in mouse models of schizophrenia. 22/5/12, £3,000

SARTRE research consortium:  The neurophysiological basis of response   inhibition and its use in diagnosis of complex frontal cortical dysfunction.    1/4/10, £30,000

Research group

I collaborate closely with other members of the Behavioural Genetics Group that was   formed when on moving from the Babraham Institute in 2006.  The BGG   includes:

Professor   Lawrence Wilkinson

Dr   Anthony Isles

Dr   Will Davies

Dr   Jo Haddon

Research collaborators

In addition to other members of the BGG I also work with the following people   at other institutions:

Dr   Matt Jones (Bristol, SARTRE consortium)

Dr Lynsey Forsyth (Bristol, SARTRE consortium)

Dr Liz Coulthard (Bristol, SARTRE consortium)

Dr Miguel Constancia (University of Cambridge): investigating the possible importance of imprinted   genes in early development and the putative long term effects dysfunction may   have of adult cognition and behaviour

Prof   Maria Grazia Spillantini (University of Cambridge): investigating the   relationship between tau-related pathology and cognition in a transgenic mouse   model of fronto-temporal dementia

Postgraduate research interests

I am interested in how genetic background and early environmental factors   interact to give rise to long term, enduring effects on brain function and   behaviour. My research at the moment focuses on a recently discovered class of   genes, called imprinted genes. Imprinted genes are odd in that expression only   occurs from either the allele inherited from mum or the allele inherited from   dad as opposed to the major majority of genes where both copies are expressed   equally irrespective of their parental origin. The existence of imprinted genes   raises many fascinating evolutionary issues but they are of most immediate   interest for me because of their key role in growth and development. In my   current research I am testing the idea that imprinted gene action, in both the   placenta and brain, can influence cognitive and behavioural outcomes via effects   on pre- and postnatal growth. Previously, I have had interests in genetic   polymorphisms influencing response control and gene mutations underlying   familial dementias.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information  regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application here.

Current students

Claire Dent (starting 2010), co-supervisor with Anthony Isles

Jessica Eddy (started 2009) co-supervisor with Lawrence   Wilkinson, Mike Owen

Past projects

Previous students

Tamara al-Janabi (started 2007) co-supervisor with Lawrence   Wilkinson, Mike Owen

Mikael Mikaelsson (started 2006) co-supervisor with   Lawrence Wilkinson