University of St Andrews

this person is a member of the
School of Psychology and Neuroscience

Dr Wenchang Li
Royal Society University Research Fellow

Bute Building
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 9TS

All animals are capable of producing steotyped motor behavior to accomodate envrionmental changes or suit individual needs. Our research uses young Xenopus laevis tadpoles as a model system to study the basic neural mechanisms controlling animal movements, i.e. swimming. The tadpole spinal cord and hindbrain are simple and highly accessible, making it an ideal place to investigate rules that may be common to the movements of different animal species. Since the tadpoles are going through rapid development, I’m also interested in how neurons time their expression of ion channels, change their neurotransmission or connectivity to integrate with existing neural circuits. Research methods include electrophysiology, optogentics, pharmacology, anti-sense RNA, microinjection, computer modelling, anatomy and behavioural analyses.

Example projects


PhD opportunities: We always welcome inquiries from keen, motivated students. You should hold or expect to hold at least a 2nd upper BSc degree. Potential PhD projects can be largely in either or motor control or developmental plasticity. For more details send your inquiries to



Dr Steve Soffe, Prof Alan Roberts in the University of Bristol.

Prof Roman Borisyuk in Plymouth University.


Previous Lab members:

Nicola Porter: PhD student funded by BBSRC.

Peter Moult: Research fellow funded by Wellcome Trust. Now a lecturer at Abertay University.

Hong-Yan Zhang: Short-term research fellow funded by Wellcome Trust. Now she has started her own lab in the University of Edinburgh.




Moult, PR , Cottrell, GA & Li, W 2013, ' Fast silencing reveals a lost role for reciprocal inhibition in locomotion ' Neuron , vol 77, no. 1, pp. 129-140.
Li, W & Moult, PR 2012, ' The control of locomotor frequency by excitation and inhibition ' The Journal of Neuroscience , vol 32, no. 18, pp. 6220-6230.
Roberts, A , Li, W & Soffe, S 2012, ' A functional scaffold of CNS neurons for the vertebrates: The developing Xenopus laevis spinal cord (review) ' Developmental Neurobiology , vol 72, no. 4, pp. 575-584.
Li, W 2011, ' Generation of Locomotion Rhythms Without Inhibition in Vertebrates: The Search for Pacemaker Neurons (review) ' Integrative and Comparative Biology , vol 51, no. 6, pp. 879-889.
Li, W , Roberts, A & Soffe, S 2010, ' Specific Brainstem Neurons Switch Each Other into Pacemaker Mode to Drive Movement by Activating NMDA Receptors ' The Journal of Neuroscience , vol 30, no. 49, pp. 16609-16620.
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