Dr Brigid Ryan

BSc(Hons), BA(Hons), PhD


I completed my undergraduate studies in Neuroscience and English Literature at the University of Otago, and graduated with a PhD from the Department of Anatomy, in Dr. Joanna Williams' lab. My PhD research project was entitled, ‘MicroRNA regulation in dentate gyrus subregions following induction of long-term potentiation in vivo’. It involved characterising changes in gene expression after the induction of long-term potentiation in awake rats. The main objective was to understand how microRNAs contribute to the maintenance of long-term potentiation, a model of memory.

I have a strong interest in science communication and I'm committed to public engagement with biomedical research.

Research | Current

I am a BRNZ Post-Doctoral Research Fellow working in the Human Brain Plasticity and Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Group, led by AP Maurice Curtis.

My current research is focused on identifying early biomarkers of frontotemporal dementia, a neurodegenerative disease that profoundly affects language, behaviour, and cognition. This research involves searching for dysregulated plasma microRNAs in people who carry a genetic mutation that will cause frontotemporal dementia in the future. Our hope is that we will be able to identify a 'signature' of microRNA changes that indicates very early disease, so that we can intervene at this early stage to prevent or slow down the disease process. We are also investigating other potential early biomarkers, including olfaction deficits and neuropsychological impairment.

Teaching | Current

Guest lecturer, MEDSCI206 Principles of Neuroscience


Brain Research New Zealand Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2016
Otago Medical School Research Society Science Writing Competition second place, 2013
W & B Miller PhD Scholarship, Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, 2012
University of Otago Neuroscience Prize, 2011
Otago Medical School Research Society Student Speaker Awards Finalist, 2011
University of Otago Scholarship in Science, 2010
Otago Medical School Research Society Summer Scholarship, 2010
MacMillan Brown Prize for Excellence in English Composition at 400-level, 2008
University of Otago Scholarship in English, 2008

Areas of expertise

I have developed expertise in the areas of immunohistochemistry, laser microdissection, microRNA target validation using luciferase assays and biotinylated microRNA pull-downs, bioinformatics, and microRNA/mRNA expression profiling, including RT-qPCR, microarrays and RNA sequencing.

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Brain Bee Committee, 2016-present

Meet a Scientist, Liggins Institute, 2016

Brain Health Research Centre Student Conference organiser, 2013

AWCBR Committee Student Representative, 2013-2015

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Ryan, B., Baker, A., Ilse, C., Brickell, K. L., Kersten, H. M., Danesh-Meyer, H. V., ... Curtis, M. A. (2018). Diagnosing pre-clinical dementia: the NZ Genetic Frontotemporal Dementia Study (FTDGeNZ). The New Zealand Medical Journal, 131 (1476), 88-91. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/46256
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Helen Danesh-Meyer, Donna Rose Addis, Maurice Curtis, Lynette Tippett, Hannah Kersten, Christina Ilse
  • Ryan, B., Logan, B. J., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2017). MicroRNAs, miR-23a-3p and miR-151-3p, are regulated in dentate gyrus neuropil following induction of long-term potentiation in vivo. PLoS ONE, 12 (1)10.1371/journal.pone.0170407
  • Ryan, B., & Williams, J. M. (2016). Novel microRNA revealed by systematic analysis of the microRNA transcriptome in dentate gyrus granule cells. Neurosci Lett10.1016/j.neulet.2016.09.003
  • O'Connor SR, Tully, M. A., Ryan, B., Bradley, J. M., Baxter, G. D., & McDonough, S. M. (2015). Failure of a numerical quality assessment scale to identify potential risk of bias in a systematic review: a comparison study. BMC Res Notes, 810.1186/s13104-015-1181-1
  • O'Connor SR, Tully, M. A., Ryan, B., Bleakley, C. M., Baxter, G. D., Bradley, J. M., & McDonough, S. M. (2015). Walking exercise for chronic musculoskeletal pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 96 (4), 724-734.e3. 10.1016/j.apmr.2014.12.003
  • Ryan, B., Joilin, G., & Williams, J. M. (2015). Plasticity-related microRNA and their potential contribution to the maintenance of long-term potentiation. Front Mol Neurosci, 810.3389/fnmol.2015.00004
  • Joilin, G., Guévremont D, Ryan, B., Claudianos, C., Cristino, A. S., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2014). Rapid regulation of microRNA following induction of long-term potentiation in vivo. Front Mol Neurosci, 710.3389/fnmol.2014.00098
  • Ryan, M. M., Ryan, B., Kyrke-Smith, M., Logan, B., Tate, W. P., Abraham, W. C., & Williams, J. M. (2012). Temporal profiling of gene networks associated with the late phase of long-term potentiation in vivo. PLoS One, 7 (7)10.1371/journal.pone.0040538

Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 503 - Bldg 503
Level 5, Room 501
New Zealand