Dr Molly Elizabeth Victoria Swanson

BSc(Hons), PhD (Anatomy)

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Research Fellow


I am a post-doctoral research fellow in the Motor Neuron Disease (MND) lab in the School of Biological Sciences and the Centre for Brain Research, University of Auckland. I am currently funded by the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand's First Fellowship. 

My research focuses on understanding how the immune cells of the brain, called microglia, change in neurodegenerative diseases. Microglia normally function to help the brain heal from damage and/or disease. There is increasing evidence that microglia become dysfunctional in neurodegenerative diseases, which can be toxic to neurons thereby contributing to disease. Because of their potential to both help and harm the brain throughout disease, understanding how they change in disease is key to developing potential therapies.

My PhD identified how microglia are altered in Alzheimer’s Disease. I utilised post-mortem human brain tissue to identify microglia in human disease. I then developed novel automated analysis pipelines to quantify microglial changes and relate these changes to anatomy and pathological hallmarks. I aim to extend these methodologies and develop new tools to investigate microglia in MND. Such research will contribute to our understanding of how microglia contribute to MND at different stages of disease.

Postgraduate supervision


Ms Serene Kim, Biomedical Science Honours (supervisor with Dr Emma Scotter and Dr Helen Murray)

Ms Zoe Woolf, Pharmacology PhD Candidate (co-supervisor with Dr Thomas Park, Prof Mike Dragunow, and Dr Anna Brooks)


Ms Laura Nementzik, Biomedical Science Honours with First Class Honours 2020 (co-supervisor with Dr Emma Scotter)

Mr Solomon Tianmu Niu, School of Biological Sciences Summer Student 2020-2021 (supervisor with Dr Emma Scotter)

Areas of expertise

  • Microglia in post-mortem human brain tissue
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Novel automated image analysis pipelines
  • Neurodegenerative diseases (including Alzheimer’s disease and Motor Neuron Disease) 

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.

Contact details

Primary office location

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

Web links