Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Gareth Leng

Chair of Experimental Physiology, Head of School of Biomedical Sciences

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Phone: 0131 650 2869

Education / Academic qualification

Master in Science, University of Birmingham
Doctor of Science, University of Birmingham
Cochlear tranduction mechanisms, studied by cochlear perfusion and auditory nerve fibre recording
Bachelor of Science, University of Warwick

Professional Qualifications

Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, FRSE

Biography

Gareth Leng gained a first class degree in Mathematics from theUniversity of Warwick in 1974, before taking an MSc then a PhD in Physiology from The University of Birmingham. In 1977, he was then recruited by Barry Cross to the Babraham Institute,Cambridge as a project leader in neuroendocrinology. He remained there until 1994, when he was appointed to the Chair of Experimental Physiology at Edinburgh. From 2008 until 2015 he was Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, one of the four schools that comprise the College of Medical and Veterinary Sciences at Edinburgh. He has published more than 250 articles and research papers on many aspects of neuroendocrinology, and his work has been cited more than 8,000 times. He is an Honorary member of the British Society for Neuroendocrinology and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and has served as President of the International Neuroendocrine Federation and as Editor in Chief of the Journal oof Neuroendocrinology.

 

He has published over 250 papers, reviews, book chapters and commentaries, covering diverse aspects of the regulation of vasopressin, oxytocin, growth hormone and appetite regulation. His work has encompassed electrophysiological, neuroanatomical, functional, and behavioural studies and also computational modelling approaches. He has an extensive network of collaborators across the world, including with groups in Japan extending back more than 25 years. In Europe he has been part of large multinational research consortia continuously since 1994, collaborating with neuroendocrinologists inFrance,Denmark,Sweden,Germany,Spain,Italy,Denmark, theNetherlands and Hungary. He is a member of advisory groups to the Institute of Experimental Medicine in Budapest, the International Center for Biomedical Science at FengHu, China, and the Rowett Institute, Aberdeen.

 

Although first trained as a mathematician, Prof Leng is best known for his experimental studies on neuroendocrine systems. He is closely identified with (i) the theory of the osmoreceptor complex, that explains osmotic regulation of oxytocin and vasopressin secretion by the intrinsic osmosensitivity of magnocellular neurones modulated by osmoresponsive inputs from anterior structures associated with the anterior wall of the third ventricle (Neuroendocrinology 1982; 34:75‑82); (ii) our understanding of opioid actions in the hypothalamus, deriving from his observations that oxytocin secretion is modulated by secretion of an endogenous opioid (now known to be dynorphin) co-packaged with oxytocin (Nature 1982; 298:161‑162) (iii) current theories of stimulus-secretion coupling in neuroendocrine systems, which propose that the electrical patterning of activity in hypothalamic neurones optimises the efficiency of this coupling (Prog Neurobiol 1998; 56: 1-31); (iv)  the original finding that growth hormone secretagogues (now known to be ghrelin agonists) act primarily on neurons in the mediobasal hypothalamus (Neuroscience 1993; 53:303-6); (v) current theories of dendritic release, which propose that neuropeptides generally are packaged separately from conventional neurotransmitters and are primarily distributed in dendrites from which they can be released semi-independently of electrical activity by agents that mobilise intracellular calcium stores (Nature 2002; 418: 85-89). (vi) current theories of the milk-ejection reflex, which explain this reflex as an emergent network property (PLoS Comput Biol 2008;4:e1000123); and (vii) new findings on a novel population of vasopressin neurons in the olfactory bulb which are specifically involved in social recognition (Nature 2010;464:413-7.)

 

In 1984, Gareth Leng was the prime mover in founding what is now the British Society for Neuroendocrinology, as the founding treasurer and secretary he established charitable status for the Society, and in 1989, the Society of Neuroendocrinology founded the Journal of Neuroendocrinology. The profits from the Journal support a very wide range of activities internationally, particularly in support of Conferences and travel grants to young scientists. From 2012 to 2016 he was the President of the International Neuroendocrine Federation.

 

Gareth Leng has been involved in the organisation of many international meetings, including as Chairman of the International Programme Organising Committee for the International Congress of Neuroendocrinology, held in Rouen in 2010. He is a member of the Science Committee of the Society for Endocrinology. He has also been active in promotion of public understanding of science, through public lectures and other public events, and popular articles.

 

Gareth Leng has also played a major role in academic publishing. As Press Secretary for the Journal of Physiology in 1993-1996 he was responsible for the redesign and re-launch of this Journal as a fortnightly soft cover journal produced by desk top publishing by staff employed directly by the Physiological Society. From 1997 to 2004, he was editor-in-chief of The Journal of Neuroendocrinology, the leading specialist research journal in Neuroendocrinology. In 2011, on behalf of the International Neuroendocrine Federation he negotiated a contract to launch a new series of e-books “Masterclasses in Neuroendocrinology” with Blackwell-Wiley; he is an editor of one of these, on Computational Neuroendocrinology.  He has served on the editorial boards of several journals and is currently an editor of Neuroendocrinology and an Associate Editor of Physiological Reports.

 

 

My research in a nutshell

My research is focussed on neurones and neuronal netwoks in the hypothalamus.  The hypothalamus controls a wide range of physiological functions that are essential for our health and well-being, including all aspects of reproduction, energy balance, body composition, physiological rhythms, responses to stress and fluid and electrolyte homeostasis. I am interested in how different neuronal populations in the hypothalamus process information relevant to these different functions, and use a wide range of techniques to study this, including electrophysiological approaches and computational modelling.

Teaching

I give lectures in all four years of the undergraduate curriculum and to MSc students on various aspects of neuroendocrinology and appetite regulation. I am co-organiser of an Honours elective on Hormones and Behaviour, and am Deputy Organiser of the Honours Programme in Medical Biology

Research activities & awards

  1. Biodynamics Conference

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

  2. Joint meeting of the Japanese Physiological and Anatomical Societies

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

  3. Edinburgh International Science Festival

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventPublic Engagement – Public lecture/debate/seminar

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