David Breen


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Personal profile

Visiting and Research Positions

Visiting Researcher, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford



I studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. I completed neurology and PhD training in Cambridge and London, before moving to Toronto as a post-CCT Edmond J. Safra Movement Disorders Fellow under the mentorship of Tony Lang. I returned to Edinburgh in 2018 and am currently supported by a Wellcome Clinical Research Career Development Fellowship.

My research in a nutshell

I am an academic neurologist in the field of movement disorders, focussing on Parkinson's disease (PD). I have diverse research interests including studying the influence of sleep and circadian disruption on brain health; studying genetic and environmental PD risk factors using large datasets; and studying neglected non-motor PD features (such as dementia and communication problems). I am driving the development of PD clinical research in Edinburgh and helping to increase clinical trials capacity. I am committed to patient participation in research.

Current Research Interests

Dundee and Edinburgh Parkinson’s Research Initiative: I am a Lead Clinical Investigator for this partnership between two Scottish universities. We are developing a prospective, longitudinal, integrated health and research informatics platform for Parkinson’s in the East of Scotland: Clinical Audit Research Evaluation – Parkinson’s Disease (CARE-PD). In collaboration with Dr. Esther Sammler (Dundee) and Dr. Gordon Duncan (Edinburgh), this research-ready cohort will drive research advances and clinical trials in our local population. By collaborating with researchers worldwide, we are using this real-world data to help accurately model the natural history of PD. We are part of the Rostock International Parkinson’s Disease Study (ROPAD) and PD-FRONTLINE (I am local PI for both) which will identify and treat genetic PD subtypes (GBA and LRRK2 patients). We are building on recent laboratory findings to explore the disease-modifying potential of the probiotic Bacillus Subtilis in PD (collaboration with Dr. Maria Doitsidou, Edinburgh and Prof. Guido Alves, Stavanger). I am co-Chief Investigator for the Scottish Regenerative Neurology Tissue Bank.


Sleep and circadian rhythm dysfunction in PD: My Wellcome Trust-funded fellowship uses big data from existing cohort studies to assess whether sleep and circadian disruption in healthy individuals (measured using questionnaires and activity monitors) influences brain health, both cross-sectionally (neuropsychological performance, brain imaging) and longitudinally (incident disease, brain pathology). I previously led a study to define the sleep phenotype of early PD and showed that sleep disturbances were associated with a fundamental change in patient’s hormone and clock gene profile. 


RT-QuIC as a diagnostic biomarker: In collaboration with Dr. Alison Green (Edinburgh), I am evaluating the RT-QuIC assay in a variety of biofluids for the diagnosis of synucleinopathies (including PD and Multiple System Atrophy).


Understanding PD dementia: Under the leadership of Prof. Roger Barker (Cambridge) and Prof. David Burn (Newcastle), I previously worked on a longitudinal cohort study (ICICLE-PD) which has made significant contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms and predictors of cognitive impairment in PD. I remain involved in this project, which forms part of the Dementias Platform UK.


Communication failure in PD: In collaboration with Dr. Angela Roberts (Northwestern University) and Dr. Saturnino Luz (Edinburgh), we are carrying out a project to define the causes and consequences of communication failure in PD (using home voice recordings) and how these relate to cognitive phenotype and social relationships.

Administrative Roles

I am a member of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Association of British Neurologists and Movement Disorders Society. I am part of the UK Parkinson’s Disease Portfolio Development Group, Parkinson's UK College of Experts, Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders Site Selection Panel and MDS Study Group on the Validation of PD-MCI criteria. I am one of five European participants (14 worldwide) on the MDS LEAP programme.       


I regularly teach medical students and neurology SpRs (large group and bedside sessions). I am a member of the Postgraduate Neuroscience Education Board at the University of Edinburgh. I am on the Organising Committee for the Parkinson’s UK Research Conference 2020 and Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh Neurology Symposium 2021.     

Clinical Expertise and Specialisation

I run movement disorders and general neurology clinics in NHS Lothian, as well as participating in the neurology on-call rota. I am helping to make service improvements to optimise care for patients with all types of movement disorders.

Positions available

I am keen to attract motivated clinical research fellows and medical students to work on projects that I am running, or to set up projects of their own.

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor in Philosophy, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

… → 2015

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, University of Edinburgh

… → 2005

Bachelor of Science (Honours), University of Edinburgh

… → 2003


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  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • White matter hyperintensities and smaller cortical thickness are associated with neuropsychiatric symptoms in neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases

    ONDRI Investigators, Ozzoude, M., Varriano, B., Beaton, D., Ramirez, J., Adamo, S., Holmes, M. F., Scott, C. J. M., Gao, F., Sunderland, K. M., McLaughlin, P., Goubran, M., Kwan, D., Roberts, A., Bartha, R., Symons, S., Tan, B., Swartz, R. H., Abrahao, A., Saposnik, G., & 32 othersMasellis, M., Lang, A. E., Marras, C., Zinman, L., Shoesmith, C., Borrie, M., Fischer, C. E., Frank, A., Freedman, M., Montero-Odasso, M., Kumar, S., Pasternak, S., Strother, S. C., Pollock, B. G., Rajji, T. K., Seitz, D., Tang-Wai, D. F., Turnbull, J., Dowlatshahi, D., Hassan, A., Casaubon, L., Mandzia, J., Sahlas, D., Breen, D. P., Grimes, D., Jog, M., Steeves, T. D. L., Arnott, S. R., Black, S. E., Finger, E., Rabin, J. & Tartaglia, M. C., 20 Jun 2023, In: Alzheimer's research & therapy. 15, 1, p. 114

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Rare neurovascular genetic and imaging markers across neurodegenerative diseases

    ONDRI Investigators, Dilliott, A. A., Berberian, S. A., Sunderland, K. M., Binns, M. A., Zimmer, J., Ozzoude, M., Scott, C. J. M., Gao, F., Lang, A. E., Breen, D. P., Tartaglia, M. C., Tan, B., Swartz, R. H., Rogaeva, E., Borrie, M., Finger, E., Fischer, C. E., Frank, A., Freedman, M., & 24 othersKumar, S., Pasternak, S., Pollock, B. G., Rajji, T. K., Tang-Wai, D. F., Abrahao, A., Turnbull, J., Zinman, L., Casaubon, L., Dowlatshahi, D., Hassan, A., Mandzia, J., Sahlas, D., Saposnik, G., Grimes, D., Marras, C., Steeves, T., Masellis, M., Farhan, S. M. K., Bartha, R., Symons, S., Hegele, R. A., Black, S. E. & Ramirez, J., 5 Jun 2023, (E-pub ahead of print) In: Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • White matter hyperintensity burden predicts cognitive but not motor decline in Parkinson's disease. Results from the ONDRI

    ONDRI Investigators, Carvalho de Abreu, D. C., Pieruccini-Faria, F., Sarquis-Adamson, Y., Black, A., Fraser, J., Van Ooteghem, K., Cornish, B., Grimes, D., Jog, M., Masellis, M., Steeves, T., Nanayakkara, N., Ramirez, J., Scott, C., Holmes, M., Ozzoude, M., Berezuk, C., Symons, S., Mohammad Hassan Haddad, S., & 25 othersArnott, S. R., Binns, M., Strother, S., Beaton, D., Sunderland, K., Theyers, A., Tan, B., Zamyadi, M., Levine, B., Orange, J. B., Roberts, A. C., Lou, W., Sujanthan, S., Breen, D. P., Marras, C., Kwan, D., Adamo, S., Peltsch, A., Troyer, A. K., Black, S. E., McLaughlin, P. M., Lang, A. E., McIlroy, W., Bartha, R. & Montero-Odasso, M., 24 Jan 2023, (E-pub ahead of print) In: European Journal of Neurology.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Neuropsychiatric Symptom Burden across Neurodegenerative Disorders and its Association with Function

    ONDRI Investigators, Kapustin, D., Zarei, S., Wang, W., Binns, M. A., McLaughlin, P. M., Abrahao, A., Black, S. E., Borrie, M., Breen, D., Casaubon, L., Dowlatshahi, D., Finger, E., Fischer, C. E., Frank, A., Freedman, M., Grimes, D., Hassan, A., Jog, M., Kwan, D., & 26 othersLang, A., Levine, B., Mandzia, J., Marras, C., Masellis, M., Orange, J. B., Pasternak, S., Peltsch, A., Pollock, B. G., Rajji, T. K., Roberts, A., Sahlas, D., Saposnik, G., Seitz, D., Shoesmith, C., Southwell, A., Steeves, T. D. L., Sunderland, K., Swartz, R. H., Tan, B., Tang-Wai, D. F., Tartaglia, M. C., Troyer, A., Turnbull, J., Zinman, L. & Kumar, S., 13 Jan 2023, (E-pub ahead of print) In: The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (CJP). p. 7067437221147443

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Small and Large Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Visible Perivascular Spaces in the Basal Ganglia of Parkinson's Disease Patients

    Ramirez, J., Berberian, S. A., Breen, D. P., Gao, F., Ozzoude, M., Adamo, S., Scott, C. J. M., Berezuk, C., Yhap, V., Mestre, T. A., Marras, C., Tartaglia, M. C., Grimes, D., Jog, M., Kwan, D., Tan, B., Binns, M. A., Arnott, S. R., Bartha, R., Symons, S., & 3 othersMasellis, M., Black, S. E. & Lang, A. E., 15 Jun 2022, In: Movement Disorders. 37, 6, p. 1304-1309

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review