School of Life Sciences

Staras Lab

The Staras Laboratory

Function, dysfunction and plasticity in central synapses; decision-making and adaptation in neural circuits

Synapses are the key sites for information transfer in the brain. Importantly, they are not rigid in their function but highly adaptive - a change in synaptic strength is a critical step in memory formation and storage. They are also key target sites for dysfunctional change, contributing to the pathological symptoms in Alzheimer's disease, for example. Understanding the fundamental mechanisms that are responsible for both their flexibility and sensitivity represent major current goals in neuroscience.

Our lab uses sensitive imaging methods, electrophysiology and ultrastructural analysis to explore these questions. A central hypothesis is that the properties of neurotransmitter-containing synaptic vesicle pools - their size, structural organization and use-kinetics - are critical elements in setting synaptic performance and represent modifiable substrates for influencing or disrupting information flow.

Working with industrial partners, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Syndesi Therapeutics, we focus on revealing Alzheimer’s-related defects in synaptic function, providing novel substrates for therapeutic approaches. We also look at decision-making circuits underlying complex behaviours such as feeding. Other research interests interface with informatics; work with a European consortium is characterizing novel mechanisms of neuronal plasticity to inform new AI and robotics architectures.

Research funded by:



Kevin Staras

Professor of Neuroscience
University of Sussex
CRPC, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QG +44 1273 678478

February 2020: PhD studentship available


Fantastic chance to use the latest optogenetically-controlled super-fast freeze system to capture central synapses in action.

February 2020: new paper in Cell Reports on vesicle remodelling


January 2020: New paper on abeta-42 impact on endosomal-lysosomal pathway




October 2018: new BioRxiv preprint on DNA damage-induced seizures

seizure image



August 2018: new BioRxiv preprint - A neural circuit for encoding perceived food value

Lymnaea feeding

July 2018: new Science Advances paper on synaptic tuning of action potentials


June 2018: new grant on circuits in feeding control with Tiago Branco, SWC. Advertising for positions soon


January 2018: Leica EM-ICE high-pressure freezer system arrives on site


July 2017: new Wellcome Trust funding for high-pressure freezer


January 2017: new Nature paper on XRCC1 mutation and cerebellar ataxia


June 2016: new Nature Comms paper on decision-making


September 2015: new Nature Comms paper on synaptic vesicle fate