Dr Douglas A Caruana

   Dr Caruana  is the Principal Investigator and head of PlasticityLab. He is also a Lecturer in Neuroscience in the School of Life Sciences at Keele University.

Dr Caruana is the Principal Investigator and head of PlasticityLab. He is also a Lecturer in Neuroscience in the School of Life Sciences at Keele University.

I obtained a BSc in Psychology from Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada after having worked in the laboratory of Prof Gordon Winocur. My Masters and Doctoral work with Dr C Andrew Chapman at Concordia University in Montreal focused on temporal and neuromodulatory factors that regulate changes in the strength of synapses in sensory inputs to the entorhinal cortex in awake animals and in single neurons in brain slices maintained in vitro. Next, I moved to the United Kingdom to conduct postdoctoral work at the University of Bristol with Prof Zafar Bashir, and used intracellular recordings in acute brain slices to investigate cholinergic regulation of synaptic plasticity in the prefrontal cortex. This led to a position as a visiting scientist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) at the US National Institutes of Health in North Carolina with Dr Serena Dudek. The focus of my work at the NIEHS was on the role of adenosinergic signalling in hippocampal area CA2 in relation to caffeine-induced cognitive enhancement. In October 2013, I moved back to the UK to start my current post at Keele University as a Lecturer in Neuroscience and PlasticityLab is my independent research laboratory in the School of Life Sciences.




I have the pleasure to teach on a number of different undergraduate modules in the Neuroscience Programme at Keele University. I am also the manager for several modules, including Neuropharmacology and Behavioural Neuroscience. In 2015, I successfully completed Modules 1 and 2 of Keele University's Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Postgraduate Programme which has allowed me to become a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the United Kingdom. Below is a list of all the modules I am involved with at Keele, including some sample topics of lectures I give to our Neuroscience students.


Undergraduate Modules:

  • Level 4: Introduction to Neuroscience
  • Level 4: Neurophysiology
  • Level 4: Introduction to Human Physiology
  • Level 5: Learning & Memory (Module Manager)
  • Level 5: Neuropharmacology (Module Manager)
  • Level 5: Research Methods in Neuroscience
  • Level 5: Neuroanatomy
  • Level 6: Behavioural Neuroscience (Module Manager)
  • Level 6: Special Senses
  • Level 6: Current Research Topics in Neuroscience

Undergraduate Research and Independent Study:

  • Level 6: Double Neuroscience Research Project
  • Level 6: Single Neuroscience Research Project
  • Level 6: Non-Experimental Research Project
  • Level 6: Dissertation in Neuroscience

Postgraduate Supervision:

  • Level 7: MSc in Neuroscience Research Training
  Sample of lecture topics.

Sample of lecture topics.

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Postdoctoral Research Associates


Dr John Butcher

I've been fascinated in the brain, learning and computation since a young age.  I remember being taken in by illusions created by artists, such as Escher, the chessboard illusion and the McGurk effect.  Around the same time, I managed to get my hands on my Dad's Commadore 64 and became hooked on programming and computers.  Since then I’ve been rather fortunate (most days!) to conduct research in both of these fields where I currently investigate some of the many mechanisms of plasticity and navigational systems.  This knowledge can be used to shed more light on the brain as well as solve real-world problems.

I graduated from Keele University with 1st class honours in Computer Science and Management Science in 2007.   My PhD investigated the use of Artificial Neural Networks when applied to highly non-linear time-series datasets where it was shown that improved performance can be obtained using a novel reservoir with random static projections (R2SP).

After completing my PhD, I was eager to pursue my interest in understanding how the brain works and undertook a post doctorate in Neuroscience investigating astrocytes and plasticity in the barrel cortex in 2012.  I then moved into imaging of populations of neurons with novel voltage-sensitive dyes in-vitro using the stomatogastric ganglion (STG) of the brown crab (Cancer pagurus) as the model system.  Most recently I have become involved in a project investigating the effects of caffeine on learning.  As a fan of tea and coffee, this of particular interest to me! 

Postgraduate Students


Anya Osborn (PHD Student)

Anya started in PlasticityLab in October 2015. She is funded, in part, by the Keele University ACORN scheme, as well as by a research grant to DAC from Action on Hearing Loss. Anya is working on a collaborative project to develop a method to culture cochlear fibrocytes in 3-D hydrogels for use as a novel cell replacement therapy to treat age-related hearing loss. In PlasticityLab, Anya is characterising the electrophysiological properties of cultured and native fibrocytes using whole cell intracellular recording methods.


Annie Hill (MPhil Student)

Annie started in PlasticityLab in September 2017. She is working on a project assessing neuromodulatory contributions to sensory processing in the hippocampal formation.


Jack Wilson (MPhil Student)

Jack started in PlasticityLab in September 2017. He is working on a project identifying the neural correlates of social recognition memory in the hippocampal formation.

Undergraduate Students


Project Students

I routinely accept 6 to 8 undergraduate students to work in PlasticityLab on their final year single or double research project, non-experimental analysis-based project or dissertation. I work closely with each student to design an exciting study that allows them to address a critical and interesting research question, as well as to learn some of the exciting techniques used regularly in PlasticityLab. In addition, I also host project students under the Keele INSPIRE scheme.

Summer research positions also become available from time-to-time, depending on current funding. Check back often for announcements regarding job openings or for a chance to gain valuable research experience

  Third year undergraduate students hard at work finishing their final year projects in PlasticityLab.

Third year undergraduate students hard at work finishing their final year projects in PlasticityLab.