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I studied medicine at the University of Oxford, qualifying in 2006. I completed a PhD in 2003 with Professor Miles Whittington and Professor Eberhard Buhl at the University of Leeds, studying the physiological mechanisms underlying gamma, beta and theta neuronal network oscillation in rodent hippocampus. I completed house jobs in the Oxfordshire area and have worked as a neurosurgeon (SHO and Registrar) between 2008 and 2016. I took up the academic clinical lecturer position in March 2014 with Professor Tipu Aziz, Professor Alex Green and Mr James FitzGerald. I transferred to Neuropathology in August 2016 to present.

Martin Gillies


Academic Clinical Lecturer in Neuropathology

My main area of research focuses on studying the neural signals associated with cognition (thinking) in the deep brain, that is areas under the surface of the brain that are targets for deep brain stimulation surgery. Understanding how structures deep in the brain are involved in cognitive tasks is important to help us understand how the brain achieves complex thinking tasks and also to help us understand how these processes might go wrong.

My work has focused so far on the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the globus pallidus interna (GPi). The ACC is a key node in the salience network – a network of brain regions that is thought to be important in monitoring for conflict, error detection, learning, appreciation of pain and perhaps conscious experience. However, the precise function of the ACC is in doubt owing to conflicting results in animals and humans. Our method is that we record electrical activity from awake patients who have undergone deep brain stimulation electrode insertion to the ACC whilst they perform tasks on computer, allowing us to probe the electrophysiology of this important brain region during cognitive tasks, aiding our understanding as to how this region functions. A similar approach is taken with the GPi, the output nucleus of the structures known as the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are important in movement, but are also involved in reward-based learning. I am studying the output of this area in relation to tasks involving learning. 

I also work with the HIFU group, and Professor Peter Somogyi on a human tissue project: We are studying the effect of high intensity ultrasound on the patients with sacral chordoma – a rare type of cancer that is difficult to treat with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The human tissue work involves excising live areas of human cortex that would normally be disposed of during neurosurgery, and transferring these samples to the laboratory where electrophysiology experiments can be performed.


My post is funded by the NIHR, and I have received a grant from the Academy of Medical Sciences of £29,500.

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