Past Lab People

Dr Laura Boddington, Assistant Research Fellow

BSc (Hons), PHD (Otago)

Laura is interested in understanding the cortical circuitry involved in interhemispheric communication in the brain, and how this is altered after stroke. Laura completed her BSc(Hons) and PhD projects in the Reynolds lab investigating the functional and electrophysiological effects of applying electrical stimulation to the brain following stroke. Laura has experience in in vivo sharp electrode electrophysiology, behavioural assessments of motor function, and is currently working towards establishing in vivo whole-cell patch clamp recording in the lab. 

Dr Dave Bergin, Postdoctoral Fellow

BSc, MSc, PhD (Otago)

Dave completed his PhD in a Lab examining models of Alzheimer’s disease.

He is now working towards establishing a new model of Parkinson’s disease in the Reynolds Lab with the aim to rapidly translate effective therapy into humans.

He commonly uses stereotaxic surgery, behavioural testing, high-performance liquid chromatography, immunohistochemistry for his research and is learning in vivo patch clamping.

Ricci Bergin, Research Assistant

BMLSc (Otago)2007

Ricci has worked in clinical microbiology and clinical molecular pathology laboratories, as well as for microbiology at the University of Otago. Working with the Reynolds group, Ricci’s role is to process and analyse behavioural data, as well as performing immunohistochemistry as part of the larger MB grant team.

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.

Natalie left us in Feb 2019 to commence Medical School, we wish her all the best.—

Dr Jamie McQuillan, Postdoctoral Fellow

PhD (Otago)

Jamie has expertise in learning and memory mechanisms, with an emphasis on neuron specific plasticity in the expression of genes related to dopamine signaling. His current Brain Research Funded project aims to profile the cell-specific genome-wide gene expression changes in the striatum associated with the aberrant plasticity seen in parkinsonian-related dyskinesia. Ultimately, Jamie’s goal is to develop genome-wide techniques to examine gene expression profiles in single brain cells and extend their application to other ageing-related neurological disorders.

Sarala Basnet, Research Assistant

M Pharm, Kathmandu University, Nepal

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

Lisa Smith, PhD Student

(co-supervised with Assoc Prof Peter Dearden)

MSc (Otago)


Lisa is a PhD student in the lab from 2010. She is interested in the small things: neurotransmitters and receptors, studied using molecular biology techniques. Particularly interested in how knowledge of these signals can be translated and used in development of therapies for diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease.

Lisa is supervised by Dr Reynolds and Assoc Prof Dearden (Dept of Biochemistry).

Simon Fisher, PhD Student

Matthew Sykes, PhD Candidate

MBiol (hons)

Matthew started in the lab in 2012 as a PhD student on a collaborative project between two institutions of the Matariki network: University of Otago and University of Western Australia. He is interested in network and population dynamics and their response to non-invasive brain stimulation. Matthew’s PhD has focussed on the ability for low-intensity pulsed magnetic fields to impact local excitability using intra-cortical measures. MBiol (hons). 

Matthew gained his PhD in 2018 and is now a Post Doctural Fellow in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr Melissa Barry (PhD graduate 2010)

BSc, BPhty, PhD (Otago)

Melissa obtained her PhD in 2010 under John Reynolds and Dorothy Oorschot’s supervision, investigating corticostriatal circuitry and corticocortical plasticity using in vivo intracellular recording within the motor cortex. 

Melissa was generously funded by a W & B Miller PhD Scholarship provided by The Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.

Emma Daly (Honours student 2011)

BSc (Otago) 

Emma’s thesis investigated the dosing of dopamine-depleted animals with L-DOPA, in order to differentially induce dyskinesias. She has left us to undertake the Masters programme for Speech and Language Therapy at Auckland University.

Dr Joyce Lim, MMedSci Student

Joyce completed her Medicine degree from Ireland in 2011 and is currently doing a MMedSci with Professor John Reynolds and Professor Dirk De Ridder. She is investigating the use of neuromodulation in a translational stroke study in human beings.

Dr Melony Black, Assistant Research Fellow

Dr Bill Connelly (Assistant Research Fellow until 2011)

BSc, MSc, PhD (Otago)

Bill investigated how signals from the motor cortex interact with signals from the opposite cortex and with the basal ganglia, using in vivo whole-cell recordings. 

Bill is currently at Cardiff University

Dr Koreen Clements (Research Fellow until 2010)

MA, BSc(Hons), PhD (Waterloo)

Koreen used behavioural and electrophysiological techniques to examine superior collicular function in models of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

Dr Jeff Bednark (PhD graduate 2011)

B.S. summa cum laude in Neuroscience 2006 (Westmont), PhD (Otago)

Jeff obtained his PhD in 2011 under Assoc Prof Liz Franz (Psychology) and John Reynolds, investigating changes in cortical activity during the learning of new action-outcome associations. Jeff’s project used behavioural and EEG techniques to look at brain activity in both controls and persons with Parkinson’s disease.

Jeff is currently at University of Queensland.

Dr Natalie Doig (Honours student 2008)

BSc(Otago), PhD (Oxford)

Natalie undertook her Honours thesis with Assoc Prof Reynolds and Dr Oswald in 2008, putting together a computer model of a cholinergic interneuron in the striatum. Unfortunately for us, the Northern hemisphere called and she went to undertake her PhD with our friends in the Bolam lab, at the MRC Unit, Oxford where she obtained her PhD in 2012. 

Dr Jennifer Davies (Assistant Research Fellow until 2012)


Jennifer came to us for a year from Cardiff University,  and was involved in behavioural work using an action discovery model, as well as inducing dyskinesias in a Parkinson’s disease model.

Dr Manfred Oswald (Research Fellow until 2010)


Manfred was the first member of the Reynolds lab and set up in vitro patch-clamp recording in the lab. His work focussed on further characterising the afterhyperpolarisation first described by John Reynolds as underlying synaptically-driven pauses in tonic firing of cholinergic interneurons in the striatum. Manfred is currently with the Dept of Physiology at Otago. 

Dr Kajsa Igelstrom (Assistant Research Fellow until 2012)

PhD (Otago)

Kajsa was working on two major projects in the lab: the development of a drug delivery system in an in vitro epilepsy model, and studying inhibitory synaptic connections with pyramidal neurons in the cortex. 

She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Ilana Witten’s lab at Princeton University.  

Dr Toni Pitcher (PhD graduate 2007)

BSc, PhD (Otago)

Toni undertook a project with John Reynolds and Jeff Wickens (now at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology) studying excitability and synaptic plasticity of neurons in the striatum of spontaneously hypertensive rats, an animal model of ADHD.

Toni was generously funded by a W & B Miller PhD Scholarship provided by The Neurological Foundation of New Zealand. Toni is currently at the van der Veer Institute

Dr Raghu Nagaraja (Postdoctoral Fellow until 2012)


Raghu investigated the biological efficacy of drugs released from a novel delivery system, using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings. 

Raghu is currently working with Dr Andrew Clarkson in Anatomy. 

Dr Shakila Rizwan (Postdoctoral Fellow until 2012)

PhD (Pharmacy) 2009 (Otago)


Shakila brought skills in clinical pharmacy  to the lab for a project investigating drug delivery methods. Her project utilised a variety of in vitro electrophysiological recording methods. 

Shakila is a lecturer in the School of Pharmacy at Otago

Yanfeng Zhang, PhD Student

PGDipSci (Otago)


Yanfeng is interested in cholinergic interneurons in the striatum, the main input nucleus of the basal ganglia in the brain. Although only about 1-2% of striatal neurons are cholinergic interneuons, these cells are believed to play an important role in reward related learning and memory. Using in vivo extracellular recording, Yanfeng is investigating how electrical stimulation and visual stimulation influences the firing pattern of cholinergic interneurons, and how these properties are related to learning and memory.

Dr Jan Schulz (PhD graduate 2010; Assistant Research Fellow until 2011)

PGDipSci (Otago), Dipl.-Biol. (Freiburg, Germany), PhD (Otago)

Jan’s project used in vivo intracellular recording to study how physiological inputs interact at the cellular level in spiny neurons and in cholinergic interneurons in the striatum. He then undertook a project using in vitro whole-cell patch clamp recordings to investigate the convergence of basal ganglia outout pathways onto single neurons in the substantia nigra. 

After a period with Matthew Larkrum in Berlin, at which time he contributed to a paper in Science, he is now at the University of Basel in Switzerland. 

Dr Rachel Sizemore (PhD graduate 2009)

PhD (Otago) 

Rachel’s PhD project, undertaken under the supervision of John Reynolds and Dorothy Oorschot, investigated excitatory synaptic connections onto cholinergic interneurons in the striatum. This was achieved using single-cell labelling techniques and transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

Rachel is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Oorschot Lab.