Dr Clare Howarth

Department of Psychology

Sir Henry Dale Fellow


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 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 aging 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:

  • Cellular mechanisms of neurovascular coupling in health and aging
  • Neurovascular coupling in Alzheimer’s disease
  • Neurovascular coupling in a zebrafish model of hyperglycemia

Show: Featured publications All publications

Journal articles

All publications

Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers

  • 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

Dave Drew (Technician): Investigating the links between Atherosclerosis and Dementia. 

Postdoctoral Staff

  • Dr Osman Shabir: Investigating the links between Atherosclerosis and Dementia. 

Postgraduate students: 

  • Llywelyn Lee (RA/PhD student): Using an optogenetic approach to investigate interneuron regulation of cerebral blood flow
  • Bethany Eyre: Cognitive and neurovascular function in an APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.
  • Naomi King: Developing chronic implants for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease in pre-clinical models
  • Marilina Douloudi: Cortical hyperexcitability as a novel therapeutic target in neurodegenerative disease
  • Shannon O'Connor 
  • 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
  • 2015-2021 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 3rd year dissertation project supervision
  • PSY2005: Psychology Research Methods Tutorials

Postgraduate teaching

  • PSY6122: Current Issues in Psychological Research - Module Organiser

Leadership/Administrative Role: 

  • PGR tutor (Department of Psychology)
Professional activities

“Interpreting BOLD” conference organiser and founder (with Dr Catherine Hall, University of Sussex and Dr Anusha Mishra, Oregon Health & Science University)