Dr Trevor Humby - BSc (Hons) Sussex, PhD Cambridge

Senior Lecturer

Research group:
029 208 76758
Tower Building, Park Place

Research summary

My research interests, as part of the Behavioural Genetics Group, are centred on the effects of imprinted genes and epigenetic changes on brain development and the long-term impact on cognition, behaviour and underlying neuronal development and function.  Genetic imprinting refers to the ‘parent of origin’ specific marking of a gene, where an allele may be expressed or repressed dependant on whether it is derived from the maternal or paternal germline.  This expression/repression is controlled by epigenetic markers (e.g. methylation and acetylation of histones) that govern and configure how a gene is expressed and can hence function.  Imprinted genes are critically important during early development in utero and impact on placental function, controlling the nutrient requirements of the foetus and/or the demands of the foetus upon the mother.  Dysfunction of imprinted genes, by over expression of a ‘normally’ repressed gene or under expression of a ‘normally’ expressed gene, leads to a number of clinical conditions such as Beckwith-Weidemann Syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Angelman’s and may be contributory to other clinical conditions such as ADHD, OCD, autism and schizophrenia 

Other research interests are directed towards understanding the genetic issues that underlie brain function, most notably in terms of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, FTDP-17 and ADHD.  Fronto-temporal Dementia with Parkinson linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17) is a form of dementia that affects nearly as many people as Alzheimer's disease and shares a similar pathology but leads to a different range of cognitive and behavioural problems.  Using a transgenic mouse model expressing a human gene incorporating a mutation known to cause FTDP-17, our work in this area is investigating the range of cognitive problems found and how they change with age and then to identifying the underlying neurobiological causes. 

For more information on the Behavioural Genetics Group - visit http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/behavioural-genetics/

I have also become interested in the role of cognitive dysfunction in dyslexia – most notably working memory impairments, and  have collaborated with Neil Cottrell, a recent graduate from the school and I have an on-going interest in impulse control and decision making.

Teaching summary

Levels 1 and 2: I teach introductory lectures on individual differences (intelligence, personality and abnormal psychology) at level 1 (PS1016).  At level 2, I teach in the abnormal and clinical psychology module (PSD2018) with lectures covering PTSD, ADHD and neurodegenerative diseases.  I run a level 2 perception practical and also final year projects.  I am module co-ordinator for PS2018 and have responsibility for the summer research opportunities scheme for level 2 students (UROP). I have supervised final year projects with a wide variety of subjects.

Selected publications (2014 onwards)


Full list of publications


Research topics and related papers

Research focuses on the role of genetics in neurological disorders and brain function/dysfunction.   This work involves the design and implementation of novel behavioural tasks for assessing cognition in gene manipulation or transgenic mouse models of human disorders and subsequent investigation of the underlying neurobiological changes.  Particular areas of interest:

  • investigating the possible importance of imprinted genes in early development and the putative long term effects dysfunction may have of adult cognition and behaviour (supervision of PhD student Mikael Mikaelsson) in collaboration with Miguel Constancia (University of Cambridge)
  • investigating the mechanisms of gene dysfunction in schizophrenia and effects on cognition (supervision of PhD students Tamara Al-Janabi and Jess Eddy) in collaboration with Mike Owen and Mick O’Donovan (School of Medicine, Cardiff)
  • investigating the relationship between tau-related pathology and cognition in a transgenic mouse model of fronto-temporal dementia in collaboration with Maria Grazia Spillantini (University of Cambridge)
  • investigating the role of imprinted genes on brain function in collaboration with Will Davies, Anthony Isles and Lawrence Wilkinson
  • investigating the role of X and Y chromosome genes in ADHD in collaboration with Will Davies
  • investigating the electrophysiological signatures of different brain regions during performance of paradigms which assess impulse control (SARTE consortium).


Genes and Development Summer Studentship, The Genetics Society: Investigating social memory and interactions in mouse models of schizophrenia. 22/5/12, £3,000

SARTRE research consortium:  The neurophysiological basis of response inhibition and its use in diagnosis of complex frontal cortical dysfunction.  1/4/10, £30,000

Research group

I collaborate closely with other members of the Behavioural Genetics Group that was formed when on moving from the Babraham Institute in 2006.  The BGG includes:

Professor Lawrence Wilkinson

Dr Anthony Isles

Dr Will Davies

Dr Jo Haddon

Research collaborators

In addition to other members of the BGG I also work with the following people at other institutions:

Dr Matt Jones (Bristol, SARTRE consortium)

Dr Lynsey Forsyth (Bristol, SARTRE consortium)

Dr Liz Coulthard (Bristol, SARTRE consortium)

Dr Miguel Constancia (University of Cambridge): investigating the possible importance of imprinted genes in early development and the putative long term effects dysfunction may have of adult cognition and behaviour

Prof Maria Grazia Spillantini (University of Cambridge): investigating the relationship between tau-related pathology and cognition in a transgenic mouse model of fronto-temporal dementia

Postgraduate research interests

I am interested in how genetic background and early environmental factors interact to give rise to long term, enduring effects on brain function and behaviour. My research at the moment focuses on a recently discovered class of genes, called imprinted genes. Imprinted genes are odd in that expression only occurs from either the allele inherited from mum or the allele inherited from dad as opposed to the major majority of genes where both copies are expressed equally irrespective of their parental origin. The existence of imprinted genes raises many fascinating evolutionary issues but they are of most immediate interest for me because of their key role in growth and development. In my current research I am testing the idea that imprinted gene action, in both the placenta and brain, can influence cognitive and behavioural outcomes via effects on pre- and postnatal growth. Previously, I have had interests in genetic polymorphisms influencing response control and gene mutations underlying familial dementias.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application here.

Current students

Claire Dent (starting 2010), co-supervisor with Anthony Isles

Jessica Eddy (started 2009) co-supervisor with Lawrence Wilkinson, Mike Owen

Previous students

Tamara al-Janabi (started 2007) co-supervisor with Lawrence Wilkinson, Mike Owen

Mikael Mikaelsson (started 2006) co-supervisor with Lawrence Wilkinson

Undergraduate education

Bachelor of Science (with Honours) in Neurobiology, University of Sussex

Postgraduate education

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge.
Thesis title, ‘Effects of mutations of genes involved in familial Alzheimer’s disease on behavioural and neural functioning’.
Supervisor: Dr. Lawrence Wilkinson.

Awards/external committees

Recipient of Oon Khye Beng Ch’hia Tsio prize research scholarship for preventative medicine offered by Downing College, Cambridge. (1998-2001).


British Association of Psychopharmacology (BAP, since 1990)

British Neuroscience Association (BNA, since 1989)

Society for Neuroscience (SFN, since 2000)

The Genetics Society (since 2009)


Reviewer of submitted manuscripts for European Journal of Neuroscience, Psychopharmacology, Behavioural Brain Research, Journal of Psychopharmacology