Basal Ganglia Research Group

University of Otago

Prof John Reynolds, PI

MBChB, PhD (Otago)

John gained a degree in Medicine in 1994 and completed a PhD in Neuroscience in 2000.

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Jason Gray, Assistant Research Fellow

Dip. Grad (Otago), MSc (Otago)


Jason has been an ARF in the Anatomy Department since 2010. Having previously worked for AgResearch for over a decade, he has competency in a range of techniques. Currently he is involved in a project to develop an on-demand drug delivery system for the brain with potential application in treating conditions such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy.


Dr Nico Vautrelle, Assistant Research Fellow

PhD (Lyon, France)


Nico completed his PhD in Lyon, France, where he studied the electrophysiological activity of several Basal Ganglia nuclei on a model of Parkinson’s Disease.

Over the past 10 years, Nico’s research interest focused on understanding the role of the Basal Ganglia in decision making and reinforcement learning.

He is now working in establishing a new model of Parkinson’s disease in the Reynolds Lab with the aim of developing new therapeutic technologies that would translate in new therapeutic strategies for humans.

He commonly uses stereotaxic surgery, behavioral testing, in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology and immunohistochemistry for his research and is learning high-performance liquid chromatography.

Dr Natalie Matheson, Postdoctoral Fellow

PhD, University of Otago


Natalie joined the lab in 2012 to begin a PhD investigating the effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation on single neuron activity within the brain. In 2017 Natalie will begin a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab, building on the work of her PhD to examine how magnetic stimulation alters the activity of neurons in the stroke-damaged brain.


Dr Mariana Leriche Vazquez, Assistant Research Fellow

PhD (Mexico City, Mexico)


Mariana Leriche is interested in the functional changes of basal ganglia network during Parkinson’s disease (PD). Particularly, the changes affecting habitual and goal directed actions. Her long-term aim is to develop a behavioural biomarker for PD based on the differential degeneration of brain regions controlling automatic and goal directed movements.

Sarala Basnet, Research Assistant

M Pharm, Kathmandu University, Nepal


Sarala works partime, conducting in vitro assays for our biological drug delivery project.


Giovanni Pedone, PhD Student

MSc Molecular Biotechnology, (University of Torino, Italy)

Giovanni joined our group in April 2018, and is undertaking a PhD. His project will investigate the mechanisms of formation of memory about actions necessary to obtain reward and the role of the neurochemical dopamine. In particular he will focus on the molecular mechanisms that allow the brain to encode the temporal information during the learning processGiovanni Pedone small photo.jpg

Rosie Melchers, PhD (intercalated) Student

Rosie is a medical student at the University of Otago, currently completing the work required for an intercalated PhD. She joined the lab as a BMedSci student in 2016 and is looking at using electrical stimulation techniques to measure and modify how the hemispheres of the brain communicate after motor cortex stroke.

Annabel Kean, Research Assistant

MSc (Otago)


Annabel works part time for Prof Reynolds, assisting in administrative and research support.