Professor Rob Brownstone, UCL Institute of Neurology

Professor Rob Brownstone moved to London from his native Canada in 2015 to take up the post of Brain Research UK Chair of Neurosurgery at UCL Institute of Neurology.

This new post was created in partnership between the Institute of Neurology and Brain Research UK to develop and promote neurosurgical research at UCL. 

Professor Rob Brownstone - Neurosurgeon and researcher

"Improving movement will give you a better quality of life"

As a functional neurosurgeon, Professor Brownstone focuses on quality of life neurosurgery, treating patients with, for example, disorders affecting movement or leading to intractable pain syndromes. In his lab, he combines electrophysiological and imaging techniques with mouse genetics to understand motor circuits, with a goal of developing new strategies to improve movement in neurological disease or following injury. 

His focus is to understand how the brain and spinal cord work together to ensure that the intended movement accomplishes the task at hand. Further, he studies how these motor circuits are affected by neurological conditions, and aims to develop strategies so that the function of these circuits can be restored. As movement is affected in so many neurological conditions, his research has the potential for widespread impact. 

Speaking of his ambitions, Professor Brownstone says, “Whether your movement is impaired because of a stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, or one of numerous other neurological conditions, improving movement will give you a better quality of life.”

“Two aspects in particular that I study are how we walk, and how our hand function works. How are our muscles activated at exactly the right time and in exactly the right order so that we can get from point A to point B? How can we perfectly pick up a paper cup or a ceramic mug so that we don’t squish the paper cup or drop the ceramic mug? These are functions that we take for granted, until we lose control of them.”

Accelerating the progress of brain research

Brain Research UK funds the best research to discover the causes, develop new treatments, and improve the lives of those affected by neurological disorders. Our research grants are awarded through openly advertised, competitive calls and follow a rigorous peer review process.

Our research funding is currently focused on three priority areas: acquired brain and spinal cord injury, brain tumours, and headache and facial pain. These are areas that we have identified as having a large unmet patient need, coupled with a lack of current research investment. Find out more about these priority areas.