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Dr Ben Warren

Supervisor Details


Contact Details

Dr Benjamin Warren

School of Psychology and Vision Sciences, University of Leicester

Research Interests

My fascination with sensory neuroscience was forged during my observations of swarming mosquitoes during my undergraduate degree. The female mosquito’s high-pitched whine (all too familiar to victims of their bites) turns out to be necessary for male mosquitoes to locate them. The remarkable auditory sensitivity of mosquitoes is underpinned by ~16,000 neurons, jam-packed into a tiny structure the size of a pin-head. My imagination was captured by these mechanosensory neurons and sparked a question which has guided my research journey ever since: How do insect auditory neurons convert sound-induced nanometre displacements into electrical signals that the insect can hear?

To pursue this question I migrated to the renowned Kloppenburg lab in Cologne to learn the art of patch-clamping: a powerful electrophysiological tool for understanding the inner electrical workings of neurons. I gained further experience in the world-famous Göpfert lab in Göttingen which utilised the fruit fly to understand the molecular basis of mechanotransduction.

Studies of auditory neurons in insects were hampered by a lack of electrical recordings of the fundamental mechanical-to-electrical step. To address this gap in knowledge I turned to the locust, which has large accessible auditory neurons, which I brought the powerful patch-clamp technique to bear. In the thriving neuroscience community at Leicester, and within the specialist Locust Labs (headed by Drs Tom Matheson and Swidbert Ott), I pioneered the first patch-clamp recordings from insect (locust) auditory neurons. I now use the locust ear as a model system to understand basic principles of auditory transduction that apply across animals.

Scientific Inspiration

Will Hunting (Fictional character from the film Good Will Hunting) – Because he was driven by his intellectual curiosity, was never intimidated by those above him and he liked apples.

Project Details

Dr Benjamin Warren is the supervisor on the below project:

Short and long-term genetic and behavioural consequences of traumatic brain injury in fruit flies

Secondary Supervisor(s): Prof Ezio Rosato / Dr Roberto Feuda 

University of Registration: University of Leicester

BBSRC Research Themes:

Apply here!

Deadline: 23 May, 2024

Project Outline

How many fingers am I holding up? What day of the week is it? Follow my finger? These three questions are designed to test your sensory, memory and motor neural abilities following an accident; all three systems are affected by a severe deceleration of your brain. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading form of death and long-term injury in young people, and now, even sub-concussive impacts (such as heading a football) disputedly lead to cognitive impairments in later life. The mechanical incapacitation of a nervous system (concussion) is not unique to humans and appears to be a shared feature of any animal with a nervous system (Buhlman et al., 2021; Delventhal et al., 2013). You will derive a comprehensive understanding of the short and long-term consequences of TBI in an experimentally trackable animal, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Specifically, you will track and analyse the locomotion, circadian rhythms and gene transcription changes of fruit flies directly after TBI and over their life span. Behaviour and gene transcription changes will be complemented with confocal and electron microscopy imaging of the fly brain. You will use the mechanical “Thor” device to deliver known decelerations (ranging from 10 to 1000G) to cohorts of flies.


  1. Quantify the threshold G-force required to induce changes in locomotion, circadian rhythm and gene expression changes.
  2. Quantify long-term changes in locomotion, circadian rhythm and gene expression due to repetitive sub-concussive impacts.
  3. Identify and track gene expression changes across a life span.
  4. Characterise and track morphological changes in the fly’s brain with confocal and electron microscopy.

Training and international meetings

You will receive extensive hands-on training in mechanics, fly genetics, molecular biology, state-of-the-art imaging approaches and bioinformatics from Dr Warren, Prof. Rosato and Dr Feuda. You will be part of the thriving Neurogenetics community that spans the School of Biological Sciences and the Department of Genetics and Genome Biology with access to state-of-the-art facilities and tailored career development programmes run by MIBTP and the Doctoral College.

You will attend international meetings to present your work such as the 28th European Drosophila Research Conference in 2027 and the 18th Traumatic Brain Injury Conference (USA) 2028 and well as domestic meetings such as the UK “Clock Club” (every six months) and an annual Neurogenetics Group retreats.


  1. Buhlman LM, Krishna G, Jones TB (2021) Drosophila as a model to explore secondary injury cascades after traumatic brain injury. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2021.112079
  2. Delventhat R, Wooder ER, Basturk M, Sattar M, Lai J, Bolton D, Muthukumar G, Ulgherait M, Shirasu-Hiza MM (2022) Dietary restriction ameliorates TBI-induced phenotypes in Drosophila melanogaster doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-13128-x


  • Mechanics/laser Doppler vibrometry
  • Behaviour (locomotion and circadian), including computer learning (AI) approaches to track limb movements
  • Molecular biology (RNA extraction, PCR, gel electrophoresis)
  • Bioinformatics (to analyse transcriptomes)
  • The methodology, skills and training is well sought after in academia and industry and will make the student competitive for roles post their PhD studies

Dr Warren is also co-supervisor on a project with Dr Roberto Feuda.