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

Vertebrate spinal cord and brain stem control movements but their anatomy and physiology are poorly understood in mammals or humans. One main reason for the slow progresses is the vast complexity of neural circuits underlying the highly flexible movements. My lab uses a much simpler vertebrate, the two-day old frog tadpole, to study basic mechanisms that control rhythmic movements like swimming and struggling. Tadpole spinal cord contains ~ 10 types of nerve cells totaling just a few thousands. The miniscule size of tadpoles makes it possible to study how nerve cells work and communicate in situ without compromising the structure of neural circuits. We are also interested in how the spinal circuit responds when its normal mechanisms are interrupted, e.g. by pharmacological agents or injuries. Tadpoles show remarkable, quick recovery in swimming after spinal injuries. The findings may hold potential keys that facilitate the design of cures for spinal diseases/injuries in humans in the long term. Research methods include electrophysiology, optogentics, pharmacology, anti-sense RNA, microinjection, computer modelling, anatomy and behavioural analyses.

For example projects please click here


PhD opportunities: I 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 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.


Current lab members

Dr Erik Svensson: Research fellow funded by BBSRC.


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.




Raghupathy, RK, Zhang, X, Alhasani, RH, Zhou, X, Mullin, M, Reilly, J, Li, W, Liu, M & Shu, X 2016, 'Abnormal photoreceptor outer segment development and early retinal degeneration in kif3a mutant zebrafish' Cell Biochemistry and Function, vol 34, no. 6, pp. 429-440. DOI: 10.1002/cbf.3205
Zhang, HY, Picton, LD, Li, W & Sillar, KT 2015, 'Mechanisms underlying the activity dependent regulation of locomotor network performance by the Na+ pump' Scientific Reports, vol 5, 16188. DOI: 10.1038/srep16188
Li, W 2015, 'Selective gating of neuronal activity by intrinsic properties in distinct motor rhythms' The Journal of Neuroscience, vol 35, no. 27, pp. 9799-9810. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0323-15.2015
Li, W, Merrison-Hort, R, Zhang, HY & Borisyuk, R 2014, 'The generation of antiphase oscillations and synchrony by a rebound-based vertebrate central pattern generator' The Journal of Neuroscience, vol 34, no. 17, pp. 6065-77. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4198-13.2014
Li, W, Wagner, MA & Porter, NJ 2014, 'Behavioral observation of xenopus tadpole swimming for neuroscience labs' Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, vol 12, no. 2, pp. A107-A113.
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8