Dr Volko Straub

Associate Professor

School/Department: Biological Sciences, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 3090



I have been working at the University of Leicester since 2005 first as a RCUK Research Fellow (2005-2010) and then as a lecturer/associate professor in neuroscience and physiology. Prior to that I worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Sussex (1998-2005) where I also completed my PhD studies. I am also a member and trustee of the British Neuroscience Association (BNA) where I act as the national co-ordinator for the local BNA groups.


My research is broadly centred on the study of neuromodulation short- and long-term changes in neuronal networks and behavioural plasticity with a specific focus on the role of serotonin and nitric oxide. In this work I try to integrate the use of both invertebrate (snails/slugs) and vertebrate model systems (dissociated cell and organotypic rat cortical cultures acute brain slices) and use a range of techniques ranging from behavioural studies to electrophysiological functional calcium imaging immunohistochemistry and molecular methods.


Cooke, R. M., Mistry, R., Challiss, R. A. J., & Straub, V. A. (2013). Nitric Oxide Synthesis and cGMP Production Is Important for Neurite Growth and Synapse Remodeling after Axotomy. JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, 33(13), 5626-+. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3659-12.2013

Vavoulis, D. V., Straub, V. A., Aston, J. A. D., & Feng, J. (2012). A Self-Organizing State-Space-Model Approach for Parameter Estimation in Hodgkin-Huxley-Type Models of Single Neurons. PLOS COMPUTATIONAL BIOLOGY, 8(3), 31 pages. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002401

Bavan, S., Straub, V. A., Webb, T. E., & Ennion, S. J. (2012). Cloning and Characterization of a P2X Receptor Expressed in the Central Nervous System of Lymnaea stagnalis. PLOS ONE, 7(11), 12 pages. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050487

Vavoulis, D. V., Straub, V. A., Kemenes, I., Kemenes, G., Feng, J., & Benjamin, P. R. (2007). Dynamic control of a central pattern generator circuit: A computational model of the snail feeding network. European Journal of Neuroscience, 25(9), 2805-2818. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05517.x

Straub, V. A., Grant, J., O'Shea, M., & Benjamin, P. R. (2007). Modulation of serotonergic neurotransmission by nitric oxide. JOURNAL OF NEUROPHYSIOLOGY, 97(2), 1088-1099. doi:10.1152/jn.01048.2006

Kemenes, I., Straub, V. A., Nikitin, E. S., Staras, K., O'Shea, M., Kemenes, G., & Benjamin, P. R. (2006). Role of Delayed Nonsynaptic Neuronal Plasticity in Long-Term Associative Memory. Current Biology, 16(13), 1269-1279. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.05.049

Straub, V. A., Kemenes, I., O'Shea, M., & Benjamin, P. R. (2006). Associative memory stored by functional novel pathway rather than modifications of preexisting neuronal pathways. JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, 26(15), 4139-4146. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0489-06.2006

Straub, V. A., Staras, K., Kemenes, G., & Benjamin, P. R. (2002). Endogenous and network properties of Lymnaea feeding central pattern generator interneurons. Journal of Neurophysiology, 88(4), 1569-1583.

Straub, V. A., & Benjamin, P. R. (2001). Extrinsic modulation and motor pattern generation in a feeding network: a cellular study. Journal of Neuroscience, 21(5), 1767-1778. Retrieved from

Park, J. H., Straub, V. A., & O'Shea, M. (1998). Anterograde signaling by nitric oxide: Characterization and in vitro reconstitution of an identified nitrergic synapse. Journal of Neuroscience, 18(14), 5463-5476


Potential topics for PhD projects:

  • The role of serotonergic signalling in neuronal development
  • Mechanisms of serotonergic modulation of neuronal properties and synaptic plasticity
  • Interactions between serotonin and nitric oxide in the modulation of neuronal properties
  • Learning, memory formation and behavioural plasticity in gastropods


As a member of the physiology pharmacology and neuroscience teaching team I contribute to neuroscience and physiology teaching at all levels. In my teaching I try to incorporate different approaches to increase student engagement including the using of e-learning resources team-based learning strategies and computer simulations that enable students to actively explore topics that could not be addressed in traditional practical classes. In recognition of my teaching activities I have been awarded a Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) in 2017.

Teaching contributions:

  • BS1000: Biological Sciences - First year tutorials (Co-convenor)
  • BS1040: The cell - An introduction to cell biology and microbiology
  • BS1060: Multicellular Organisation - An introduction to physiology pharmacology and neuroscience (Convenor)
  • BS2015: Physiology of Excitable Cells (Co-convenor)
  • BS2066: Neurobiology of Behaviour
  • MB2080: Pathophysiology of Disease
  • BS3X00: Final year honours projects (co-ordinator for neuroscience projects)
  • BS4601: Advanced Research Methods: Evaluating panning and analysing research (co-convenor)


  • Higher Education Academy:
    I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)
  • British Neuroscience Association (BNA):
    I am a trustee and council member of the BNA and act as the national co-ordinator for the local BNA group representatives.


Current Main Research Interests:

  • Role of serotonergic signalling in cortical development
    Serotonin is an important neuromodulatory signalling molecule in the central nervous system that has been linked to a range of conditions including depression autism schizophrenia and aggressive behaviour. Recent evidence suggests that some of the links are due to effects of serotonin during development of the central nervous system. In order to gain a better understanding of serotonin in cortical development we study the effects of serotonergic signalling on neurite growth and synapse formation in cortical cell and organotypic cultures (Baliga et al 2015; Baily et al 2017).

  • Interactions between serotonin signalling and stress in development of zebrafish CNS (collaboration with W Norton)
    Early life stress and disruption of serotonergic signalling during development have both been shown to have negative impacts on behaviour in later life. In collaboration with the Norton lab I have recently started to study whether early life stress affects serotonin signalling in developing zebrafish and whether this is a possible link between early life stress and subsequent behavioural changes. 

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