Denis Burdakov

System Neuroscience and Energy Control Laboratory

Our research seeks to understand at the cellular and computational levels how chemical and physical signals inside and outside the body (sights, sounds, nutrients) are detected and processed in the brain to generate normal and pathological behaviour.

Our main focus is on wide-spreading "whole-brain" neural networks (e.g. orexin cell networks), which regulate both diverse "voluntary" behaviours (exploration, eating, decision-making) and autonomic function (breathing, heart rate, glucose levels) critical for health and survival. We study how these global networks orchestrate more specialised neural modules (e.g. sensory systems, memory systems) located throughout the brain.

Our research is relevant for understanding and preventing some of the most frequent medical disorders of today, such as obesity, diabetes, sleep disorders, and cardiovascular disease.

To achieve our aims, we use a large range of modern tools with dedicated equipment inside the lab, including in vivo recordings from specific neurons during free behaviour, chemogenetics, optogenetics, electrophysiology, multiphoton and confocal imaging, behavioural analysis, and transgenic models (Cre lines, reporter lines).

In addition to these dedicated facilities of the Burdakov lab, many additional facilities and equipment are available as core/shared services in the institute.

Figure 1

"Brain orchestrator neurons". Orexin/glutamate cells (green) and MCH/GABA cells (red) are located only in the lateral hypothalamus but send their axons throughout the brain. The Orexin and MCH cells are critical for normal sleep and body weight, and are thought to act as energy sensors that concurrently coordinate locomotion, memory, reward-seeking, perception, stress and autonomic function.

Selected publications

Gonzalez JA, Iordanidou P, Strom M, Adamantidis A, Burdakov (2016) Awake dynamics and brain-wide direct inputs of hypothalamic MCH and orexin networks. Nature Communications 7, 11395

Schöne C, Apergis-Schoute J, Sakurai T, Adamantidis A, Burdakov D  (2014) Coreleased orexin and glutamate evoke nonredundant spike outputs and computations in histamine neurons. Cell Reports 7, 697-704

Jego S, Glasgow SD, Herrera CG, Ekstrand M, Reed SJ, Boyce R, Friedman J, Burdakov D, Adamantidis AR (2013) Optogenetic identification of a rapid eye movement sleep modulatory circuit in the hypothalamus. Nature Neuroscience 16(11), 1637-43

Karnani M, Apergis-Schoute J, Adamantidis A, Jensen L, de Lecea L, Fugger L, Burdakov D (2011) Activation of central orexin/hypocretin neurons by dietary amino-acids.  Neuron 72, 616-629

Williams RH, Alexopoulos H, Jensen LT, Fugger L, Burdakov D (2008) Adaptive sugar sensors in hypothalamic feeding circuits. PNAS USA 105, 11975-11980

Williams RH, Jensen LT, Verkhratksy A, Fugger L, Burdakov D (2007) Control of hypothalamic orexin neurons by acid and CO2. PNAS USA 104, 10685-10690

Denis Burdakov

  • Qualifications and history 
  • BA, DPhil, University of Oxford
  • 2004 Royal Society Research Fellow,  University of Cambridge, University of Manchester
  • 2005 Lecturer in Neuroscience,  University of Manchester
  • 2006 University Lecturer, Department of Pharmacology,  University of Cambridge
  • 2007 Affiliated Investigator, Institute for Metabolic Science,  University of Cambridge
  • 2012-15 Programme Leader, Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research, London
  • 2015 Group Leader, The Francis Crick Institute