Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Douglas Armstrong

Personal Chair in Systems Neurobiology

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Willingness to take Ph.D. students: Yes


1992-1995PhDMolecular Genetics at University of Glasgow
1998-1992BScMolecular Biology at University of Glasgow


Prof. Douglas Armstrong gained his PhD in Molecular Genetics at University of Glasgow. After gaining his PhD, he worked with Kim Kaiser as a Research fellow at the Division of Molecular Genetics, University of Glasgow. Between 2000 and 2001, he was the Welsh Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow, working with Kathleen Beckingham on genetic analysis of gravitaxic behaviour at the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA. In 2001, Prof. Armstrong became Reader/Lecturer in the Centre for Integrative Physiology and the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. From 2008, Prof. Armstrong has been a part-time Chief Scientific Officer for Brainwave-Discovery Ltd. as well as Actual Anslytics Ltd. in Edinburgh. In 2011 he gained chair as Professor of Systems Neurobiology at the University of Edinburgh.
Currently, Prof. Armstrong is involved in the following projects:
Brainwave Discovery Ltd.: Brainwave Discovery (BWD) provides technology combining BrainWave, an in vivo brain physiology (patent granted), with synthetic biology and automated behaviour assessment, enabling human target prioritisation within the fruit-fly Drosophila, and the use of Drosophila assays in chemical screening. Brainwave offers custom services for target prioritisation followed up by in-licensing agreements for in vivo in-house compound screening.
Actual Analytics Ltd.:A project developing a range of tools automating behavioural analysis and data capture. These tools are essential in bridging the gap between the analyses within large protein complexes and their phenotypes in integrated studies. The use of computer vision and tracking algorithms has provided information that is normally difficult to access, leading to new insights into behaviour. Using machine learning has allowed our system to learn to recognise behaviour under investigation to the point that the system can effectively mimic human experts.
Genes2Cognition:A project developing models of the synaptic molecular complexes, more recently studying the evolution of the neuronal synapse with proteomic studies in the fly brain to complement those originally performed in mammals.
Drosophilabehaviour:An ongoing BBSRC funded research into various aspects of complex behaviours, used as a functional readout of the fly nervous system, linked to the systems biology in the Genes2Congition project. In particular, this project is investigating fly orthologues linked to human cognitive disorders, more recently focusing on courtship and gravity. Prof. Armstrong is also working to launch a NASA funded flight study on board the Space Station collaborating with Kate Beckingham at Rice University and Sharmila Bhattacharya at NASA Ames.
Neuroanatomy and Gene Expression: Prof. Armstrong developed fly-trap, the first freely available database for enhancer-trap expression patterns in the insect brain. He also developed BrainTrap, a database of protein-trap expression patters in the adult fly brain, and more recently the Virtual Fly Brain query interface, bringing together anatomical and molecular queries into a single unified interactive engine. Currently, Prof. Armstrong is working on characterising the effects of mutations in a range of developmentally regulated genes in the adult brain. Prof. Armstrong is also developing a series of tools for rapidly comparing expression patterns across brains.
Bioinformatics:This is a bioinformatics project linking all the projects above. A multi-centre collaboration, this project includes analysis of gene RIDGEs (with Peter Ghazal), gene structure and relationship to gene expression (with Andrew Jarman), as well as analyses of microarray and proteomic datasets in particular from time series experiments and form identified cell types (with Stuart Aitken and Dirk Husmeier). The projects involved require the rapid curation of information from literature, prior knowledge base, newly acquired data from synthetic models and wet lab results, as well as from collaborating laboratories.
In all these projects, Prof. Armstrong works within a network of collaborative links throughout Edinburgh, the UK and beyond. In particular, he works in close links with Prof. Andrew Jarman in the Centre for Integrative Physiology. His bioinformatics projects are located in the Institute for Adaptive and Nerual Computation and in the Edinburgh Centre for Bioinformatics. His also works closely with several groups including those of Prof. Seth Grant, Prof. Peter Ghazal and Prof. David Proteous investigating mammalian systems biology.

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