Dr Clare Howarth

Department of Psychology

Senior Lecturer

+44 114 222 6511

Full contact details

Dr Clare Howarth
Department of Psychology
Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences (ICOSS)
219 Portobello
S1 4DP

In 2003 I graduated from Imperial College London with an MSci (hons) in Physics with a year in Europe. I then pursued a PhD in Neuroscience with Prof. David Attwell at University College London, where I studied Brain Energy Supply and Use. During my PhD we demonstrated, for the first time, pericyte regulation of blood flow at the capillary level and produced a novel model of energy use within the cerebellum.

After my PhD, I was awarded a Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowship to work with Prof. Brian MacVicar (University of British Columbia, Canada) and Prof. Nicola Sibson (University of Oxford). Using a variety of optical imaging techniques, we demonstrated a role for astrocytes in the regulation of brain blood flow to CO2.

In 2013 I was awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Advanced Fellowship and I moved to Sheffield to establish my own research group within the Neurovascular and Neuroimaging Research Group. In 2015 I was awarded a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship (funded by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society). My research group uses a multimodal imaging approach to investigate how blood flow in the brain is controlled. We are particularly interested in which cells regulate brain blood flow and whether this regulation becomes dysfunctional in ageing and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

  • MSci (Hons) Physics with a year in Europe (Imperial College London)
  • PhD Neuroscience (University of London: University College London)
Research interests

The brain is an energetically expensive organ, with only limited energy reserves. In order to maintain normal brain function, it is essential that increases in neuronal activity are matched with local increases in blood flow, which supplies the extra oxygen and glucose needed by the neurons. In addition to being essential for normal brain function, this increase in blood flow and oxygenation underlies commonly used functional neuroimaging signals e.g. BOLD fMRI. The cellular mechanisms responsible for this local increase in blood flow are still incompletely understood. By combining several imaging techniques (including 2 photon microscopy, 2D-OIS and MRI) with electrophysiology and optogenetic approaches, we are investigating the involvement of glial cells (astrocytes) and inhibitory interneurons in the regulation of brain blood flow. This research will inform our understanding of how the healthy brain functions and will also help us to understand what BOLD fMRI can (and can’t) tell us about neural activity.

There is increasing evidence that brain blood flow is altered in aging and in diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. We are examining when, and how, neurovascular coupling is altered, and what the impact of these changes could be. This research will not only increase our understanding of such diseases but may offer us novel therapeutic targets to pursue.

Current research interests include:
• Investigating vascular-based therapeutic targets to alter disease progression in mouse models of dementia
• Cellular mechanisms of neurovascular coupling in health and aging
• Neurovascular coupling in Alzheimer’s disease
• Neurovascular function in mouse models of multimorbidity (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease and atherosclerosis)
• Neurovascular coupling in a zebrafish model of hyperglycemia


Show: Featured publications All publications

Journal articles

All publications

Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers

  • Howarth C, Lee L, Shabir O & Berwick J (2022) Investigating the involvement of nitric oxide in neurovascular coupling. JOURNAL OF CEREBRAL BLOOD FLOW AND METABOLISM, Vol. 42(1_SUPPL) (pp 60-60) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Hall C, Shih A, Korte N, Mae M & Howarth C (2022) Pericytes in disease. JOURNAL OF CEREBRAL BLOOD FLOW AND METABOLISM, Vol. 42(1_SUPPL) (pp 277-277) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Lee L, Boorman L, Glendenning E, Christmas C, Sharp PS, Bracci E, Berwick J & Howarth C (2019) The contribution of specific inhibitory cortical interneurons to neurovascular coupling. JOURNAL OF CEREBRAL BLOOD FLOW AND METABOLISM, Vol. 39 (pp 19-19) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Howarth C, Sutherland BA, Choi HB, Martin C, Lind BL, Khennouf L, Pakan JMP, Ellis-Davies GCR, Lauritzen MJ, Sibson NR , Buchan AM et al (2016) ASTROCYTES CONTRIBUTE TO THE CEREBRAL BLOOD FLOW RESPONSE TO HYPERCAPNIA. JOURNAL OF CEREBRAL BLOOD FLOW AND METABOLISM, Vol. 36 (pp 528-529) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Wong L, Sharp P, Howarth C, Hoggard N, Berwick J & Francis S (2016) 179 Neurovascular Function in Atherosclerosis. Heart, Vol. 102(Suppl 6) (pp A123.2-A124), 6 June 2016 - 8 June 2016. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Peppiatt CM, Howarth C, Mobbs P & Attwell D (2005) Pericyte regulation of capillary diameter in rat retina. FASEB JOURNAL, Vol. 19(4) (pp A716-A716) RIS download Bibtex download


Research group

Neuroscience and Cognition

Research Group members:

  • Dave Drew (Technician)

Postdoctoral Staff:

  • Dr Osman Shabir
  • Dr Bethany Eyre
  • Llywelyn Lee

Postgraduate students:

  • Naomi King
  • Marilina Douloudi
  • Shannon O'Connor
  • Dirk Goldschmitt
  • Runchong Wang
  • Rahul Sidhu
  • Alicia Halliday
  • 2023-2026 MRC project grant: Massaging brain vessels with vasomotion: Targeting the vasculature to alter disease progression in mouse models of dementia (with Dr Jason Berwick, Dr Chris Martin and Dr Julie Simpson)
  • 2020-2023 British Heart Foundation project grant: Atherosclerosis, the brain and vascular dementia – the role of inflammation in neurovascular function (with Professor Sheila Francis (PI), Dr Jason Berwick, Professor Stuart Allan and Dr Emmanuel Pinteaux)
  • 2015-2022 Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellowship
  • 2016-2019 NC3Rs project grant: Developing a zebrafish model of neurovascular coupling (with Professor Tim Chico, Dr Vincent Cunliffe, Dr Robert Wilkinson, Professor Oliver Bandmann)
Teaching activities

Research Project Supervision

  • MSc Cognitive Neuroscience and Human Neuroimaging
  • MSc Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience
  • MSc Systems Neuroscience

Undergraduate teaching

  • PSY346: Psychology Dissertation Research Project
  • PSY331: Extended Essay in Psychology

Postgraduate teaching

  • PSY6122: Current Issues in Psychological Research - Module Organiser
  • PSY6315: Systems Neuroscience
Professional activities and memberships

Within the Department:

  • Director of Postgraduate Research
  • Research Cluster Deputy Lead (Cognitive and Neural Processes Across the Lifespan)


  • “Interpreting BOLD” conference organiser and founder (with Dr Catherine Hall, University of Sussex and Dr Anusha Mishra, Oregon Health & Science University)
  • Board of Directors: International Society for Cerebral Blood Flow & metabolism (ISCBFM)
  • MRC Neurosciences and Mental Health Board Member
PhD Opportunities

I am happy to receive applications for PhD study in my area of research.

We advertise PhD opportunities (Funded or Self-Funded) on FindAPhD.com

See PhD studentship opportunities with Clare Howarth

For further information, please see the department PhD Opportunities page.