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Dr James Dachtler

I am interested in how social behaviour is represented in the brain, and the synaptic, genetic and neuroanatomical basis for social motivation and social recognition. Recently, I have focused on translating these basic insights into the clinic, with a focus upon social withdrawal in Alzheimer’s disease. In 2016 I joined the Department of Psychology at Durham University with an Alzheimer’s Society Fellowship to research synaptic changes in the brain that may explain social withdrawal in early Alzheimer’s disease. I also co-supervise the Ph.D student associated with the ‘Detecting Dementia Earlier’ project with Colin Lever and Stephen Evans who will examine whether changes in sociability can be an early marker for the progression to Alzheimer’s disease. I am also developing new psychological and biological tests to better probe potential changes in social engagement and social networks across normal ‘healthy’ ageing, which can then be translated into the ‘Detecting Dementia Earlier’ project.

Prior to joining Durham, I undertook my Ph.D in Cardiff (2011) and Post-Doctoral and Fellow positions at the University of Leeds (2011-2016) funded by the Wellcome Trust, Royal Society and British Pharmacological Society.

Dr Colin Lever

I am interested in translating insights from basic research on the hippocampal formation into clinical practice, focusing on spatial and episodic memory in Alzheimer’s disease and Epilepsy. A few years after my Bachelor's degree at Oxford University, I studied Neuroscience at UCL, culminating in a PhD with John O'Keefe (2001) on hippocampal place cells. I stayed in John O’Keefe’s lab as a post-doc working on spatial representation and memory mechanisms, and worked briefly with the Blanchards in USA on anxiety (2005), before setting up my own lab in Leeds University in 2005. I joined the Psychology Department in Durham University in 2011. I am the joint PI, with Stephen Evans (NHS South Tees), of the ‘Detecting Dementia Earlier’ project, jointly funded by Durham University and the James Cook University Hospital Voluntary Services council. With Neil Burgess and John O’Keefe at UCL, I discovered a new type of spatial cell called the boundary vector cell (Lever, Burton, Jeewajee, O’Keefe, Burgess, 2009, Journal of Neuroscience). Interestingly, this boundary-based spatial coding, as with other hippocampal spatial neurons, occurs in a viewpoint-independent manner. Viewpoint-independent spatial memory is tested in The Four Mountains task, developed by Neil Burgess and Tom Hartley, and is a key component of the ‘Detecting Dementia Earlier’ project. Preliminary work led by Dennis Chan suggests that the Four Mountains task is highly accurate in diagnosing early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (Wood, Moodley, Lever, Minati, Chan, 2016, Frontiers in Neurology). Funders of my research include the BBSRC, who fund my current work on boundary and grid cells. I am a Faculty Member of the Cognitive Neuroscience section of the post-publication peer review service Faculty of 1000.

Dr Stephen Evans

I have been working as a Clinical Psychologist specialising in neuropsychology at James Cook University Hospital since 2012. I am the Research Coordinator for the Medical Psychology Department at James Cook University Hospital and an Honorary Research Fellow with Durham University. My broad research interests are listed below:

  • Neuropsychology test development
  • Neuropsychology test validation studies
  • Memory disorders - specifically the early detection of Alzheimer's Disease
  • Epilepsy - specifically accelerated long-term forgetting (ALF)
  • Motor Neurone Disease (cognitive associations and social impact)
  • The implementation of “third wave” cognitive therapies in neurologically impaired groups

I am a published author in the field of memory research and have collaborations with numerous academic staff across various universities in the UK. I am joint Principal Investigator with Dr. Colin Lever on the “Detecting Dementia Earlier” match funded PhD studentship, which is a collaboration between James Cook University Hospital’s Voluntary Service Counsel and Durham University. I am the local PI on a multicentre RCT “The CRAMMS trial” which is a project in collaboration with Professor Nadina Lincoln from Nottingham University looking at the effectiveness of a group neurorehabilitation intervention for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis. I was also one of the joint local PIs for a phase III NIHR funded RCT “The ReMeBrin Trial” which was also in collaboration with Nottingham University, with Professor Rosham Das Nair. The ReMeBrin Trial looked at the effectiveness of a group rehabilitation intervention for individuals with traumatic brain injuries. I am currently working with Professor Alan Baddeley, developing research into Accelerated Long Term forgetting in patients with epilepsy and in mixed neurological groups.

Over the past five years have acted as am NHS field supervisor seven Trainee Clinical Psychologists undertaking their D.Clin.Psy theses, which has been in collaboration with the Universities of Teesside, Leeds and Newcastle.

I teach on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology courses at Teesside and Newcastle, covering the modules on Memory, Epilepsy and Neurodegenerative disorders.

I am passionate about research as a means of improving health related quality of life and reducing emotional distress in our communities. My goal is to bridge university-driven academic psychology with the expertise of local NHS professionals to maximise the use of our respective skill sets.

The organisers of Neuraclin, taken at James Cook University Hospital, from left to right: Dr Stephen Evans, Dr Colin Lever, and Dr James Dachtler