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Dr David Menassa

Stipendiary lecturer in neurophysiology and neuroscience


I obtained my BSc in biological and earth sciences at the Université Saint Joseph in Beirut in 2006. Following a brief spell at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, I completed my MSc in applied physiology at the University of Oxford followed by an MPhil in bioenergetics at the University of Cambridge. In 2009, I was awarded a Clarendon scholarship to pursue my DPhil studies in clinical neurology at the University of Oxford. Since 2014, I have held various postdoctoral appointments at Bristol and Oxford. I joined Queen’s in 2017 as stipendiary lecturer in neurophysiology.


I teach the neurophysiology syllabus at Queen’s to first-year undergraduates in experimental psychology. I also teach the neuroscience syllabus to second-year undergraduates reading medicine and biomedical science. I provide supervision for final honour school (FHS) medical students who take an interest in submitting extended essays on neurodevelopmental disorders as part of the FHS medical sciences examination. 


My research interests are centred on the materno-fetal interface. More specifically, I am interested in the role maternal factors play in fetal neurodevelopment. These factors could include maternal antibodies against fetal brain proteins or oxidative stress signals to the placenta, both of which can alter synaptic wiring in the offspring and increase the incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders, mental retardation and schizophrenia. More importantly, whether these maternal factors could be blocked would be pivotal for potentially rescuing the clinical phenotype. More recently, I have been focusing on the role of microglial cells in synapse formation and pruning during development and postnatally. I am currently a research fellow funded by the Leverhulme Trust at the University of Southampton investigating microglial dynamics during development.


Menassa DA, Gomez-Nicola D. Microglial Dynamics During Human Brain Development. Front Immunol. 2018 May 24;9:1014. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.01014. eCollection 2018. Review. PubMed PMID: 29881376; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5976733.

Dawes JM, Weir G, Middleton SJ, Patel R, Chisholm K, Pettingill P, Peck LJ, Sheridan J, Shakir A, Jacobson L, Gutierrez-Mecinas M, Galino J, Walcher J, Kuhnemund J, Kuehn H, Sanna M, Lang B, Clark AJ, Themistocleous A, Iwagaki N, West SJ, Werynksa K, Carroll L, Trendafilova T, Menassa DA, Giannoccaro MP, Coutinho E, Cervellini I, Tewari D, Buckley C, Leite M, Wildner H, Zeilhofer HU, Peles E, Todd AJ, McMahon SB, Dickenson LH, Lewin G, Vincent A, Bennett DLH (2018). Immune or genetic mediated disruption of CASPR2 causes pain hypersensitivity due to enhanced primary afferent excitability. Neuron, e1-e10. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.01.033

Menassa DA, Braeutigam S, Bailey A, Falter-Wagner CM. Frontal evoked γ-activity modulates behavioural performance in Autism Spectrum Disorders in a perceptual simultaneity task. Neurosci Lett. 2018 Feb 5; 665:86-91. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2017.11.045. Epub 2017 Nov 27. PubMed PMID: 29191694.

Phillips TJ, Scott H, Menassa DA, Bignell AL, Sood A, Morton JS, Akagi T, Azuma K, Rogers MF, Gilmore CE, Inman GJ, Grant S, Chung Y, Aljunaidy MM, Cooke CL, Steinkraus BR, Pocklington A, Logan A, Collett GP, Kemp H, Holmans PA, Murphy MP, Fulga TA, Coney AM, Akashi M, Davidge ST, Case CP. Treating the placenta to prevent adverse effects of gestational hypoxia on fetal brain development. Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 22;7(1):9079. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-06300-1. PubMed PMID: 28831049; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5567270.

Coutinho E, Menassa DA, Jacobson L, West SJ, Domingos J, Moloney TC, Lang B, Harrison PJ, Bennett DLH, Bannerman D, Vincent A. Persistent microglial activation and synaptic loss with behavioral abnormalities in mouse offspring exposed to CASPR2-antibodies in utero. Acta Neuropathol. 2017 Oct;134(4):567-583. doi: 10.1007/s00401-017-1751-5. Epub 2017 Jul 28. PubMed PMID: 28755208; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5587616.

Coutinho E, Menassa DA, Jacobson L, West S, Domingos J, Moloney T, Pedersen MG, Benros, ME, Lang B, Bennett DLH, Harrison PJ, Mortensen PB, Nørgaard-Pedersen B, Bannerman D, Vincent A (2017). Maternal CASPR2 antibodies and neurodevelopmental disorders in the offspring: epidemiological findings and an animal model. The Lancet, 389(S1), S18. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30414-2

Menassa DA, Sloan C, Chance SA. Primary olfactory cortex in autism and epilepsy: increased glial cells in autism. Brain Pathol. 2017 Jul;27(4):437-448. doi: 10.1111/bpa.12415. Epub 2016 Aug 15. PubMed PMID: 27409070.

Levett DZ, Radford EJ, Menassa DA, Graber EF, Morash AJ, Hoppeler H, Clarke K, Martin DS, Ferguson-Smith AC, Montgomery HE, Grocott MP, Murray AJ; Caudwell Xtreme Everest Research Group. Acclimatization of skeletal muscle mitochondria to high-altitude hypoxia during an ascent of Everest. FASEB J. 2012 Apr;26(4):1431-41. doi: 10.1096/fj.11-197772. Epub 2011 Dec 20. PubMed PMID: 22186874.
Roberts LD, Murray AJ, Menassa D, Ashmore T, Nicholls AW, Griffin JL. The contrasting roles of PPARδ and PPARγ in regulating the metabolic switch between oxidation and storage of fats in white adipose tissue. Genome Biol. 2011 Aug 11;12(8):R75. doi: 10.1186/gb-2011-12-8-r75. PubMed PMID: 21843327; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3245615.