Dr Peter Stuart Freestone

PhD Physiology, BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science

Research | Current

Peter is a recent graduate of the University of Auckland, completing his PhD studies under the supervision of Prof Janusz Lipski 'Effects of rotenone and 6-OHDA on dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra studied in vitro'. Since returning from a post-doctotal position in Rome Italy, Peter has established an independent line of research studying normal brain function and connectivity between brain cells.

The brain produces its own cannabis-like substances and these compounds - called endocannabinoids - are involved in many functions from regulating immune responses to modulating the flow of information between brain cells. They also show promise as a treatment (on their own, or in conjunction with other strategies) for various neurological disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's disease (PD)

Peter's current research interest is probing the neuro-modulatory role of endocannabinoids in the basal ganglia - an important brain network associated with movement, reward and learning. This network connects several brain structures and the loss of dopamine producing cells in one of these structures (the Substantia Nigra pars compacta) underlies PD.

Recording of electrical activity from single rodent brain cells (in vitro) enables Peter to measure changes in the strength of connections between neurons, and also the modulation of connections by endocannabinoids.

More recently, Peter has established advanced optogenetic techniques at the University. These techniques enable light to very selectively activate particular neurons which have been made to possess light-activated proteins such as channelrhodopsin. This important technique holds great potential for neuroscience research enabling very precise dissection of neural networks not previously possible with conventional electrical stimulation approaches. In addition, future therapeutic strategies for diseases ranging from PD and epilepsy, to cardiac arrhythmias may be treated with optogenetic tools.


  • Professor Janusz Lipski, Department of Physiology and Centre for Brain Research, Univerisity of Auckland

  • Dr Luke Hallum, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Univerisity of Auckland

  • Dr Mark Trew, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, Univerisity of Auckland

  • Professor George Augustine, Nangyang Technological University, Singapore

  • Professor Simon Malpas and Associate Professor David Budgett, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, Univerisity of Auckland

  • Professor Nicola Mercuri, Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome Italy


Teaching | Current

MEDSCI 309: Biophysics of Nerve and Muscle

MEDSCI 317: Integrative Neuroscience: From Fetus to Adult

MEDSCI 733: Advanced Methods in Cell Physiology

PHARMACY 312: Pharmacy 3

Postgraduate supervision

Current Lab members

  • Ms Kathryn Todd, PhD student
  • Ms Si Yin Lui, Research Technician
  • Mr Jordan Lloyd, PhD student (with Professor Janusz Lipski)

Current Students

  • Igor Felippe, PhD Physiology (with Professor Julian Paton)

Previous Students

  • Ms Catriona Miller, Summer student, 2019
  • Ms Si Yin Lui, MSc Biomed, 2018
  • Ms Alice McDouall, MSc Biomed, 2018 (with Professor Janusz Lipski)
  • Mr Andrew Lee, PhD Physiology, 2018 (with Professor Janusz Lipski)
  • Ms Beverly Chen, PhD Bioengineering, 2015 (with Associate Professor David Budgett)
  • Ms Kathryn Todd, BSc Honours Biomed, 2015
  • Mr Gabriel de Guzman, BSc Honours Biomed, 2013
  • Ms Danielle Lee, BSc Honours Biomed, 2013 (with Professor Janusz Lipski)
  • Ms Jane Wu, BSc Honours Biomed, 2012

Areas of expertise

  • In vivo and ex vivo (brain slice) preparations

  • Electrophysiology (whole-cell patch-clamp, single unit extracellular)

  • Intracranial viral vector injections

  • Optogenetic circuit mapping (CRACM)

  • In vivo electrochemistry (FSCV, FSCAV)

  • Coding analysis and laboratory software (Silicon Nervous System, Light Mapper, Live Electrochem)

  • Immunocytochemistry

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Brain Research New Zealand Early Career Researchers Group
  • Neurophotonics Reviewer Board

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.
  • Lloyd, J. T., Martini, A., McDouall, A., Sood, R., Freestone, P. S., Mercuri, N., & Lipski, J. (2019). Electrophysiological characterization of novel effects of the Uptake-2 blocker decynium-22 (D-22) on dopaminergic neurons in the Substantia Nigra pars compacta. Neuroscience, 396, 154-165. 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.11.005
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jordan Lloyd, Janusz Lipski
  • Freestone, P. S., Wu, X. H., de Guzman, G., & Lipski, J. (2015). Excitatory drive from the Subthalamic nucleus attenuates GABAergic transmission in the Substantia Nigra pars compacta via endocannabinoids. European journal of pharmacology, 767, 144-151. 10.1016/j.ejphar.2015.09.050
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Janusz Lipski
  • Yee, A. G., Lee, S.-M., Hunter, M. R., Glass, M., Freestone, P. S., & Lipski, J. (2014). Effects of the Parkinsonian toxin MPP+ on electrophysiological properties of nigral dopaminergic neurons. Neurotoxicology, 45, 1-11. 10.1016/j.neuro.2014.08.009
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Janusz Lipski
  • Freestone, P. S., Guatteo, E., Piscitelli, F., di Marzo, V., Lipski, J., & Mercuri, N. B. (2014). Glutamate spillover drives endocannabinoid production and inhibits GABAergic transmission in the Substantia Nigra pars compacta. Neuropharmacology, 79, 467-475. 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2013.12.007
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Janusz Lipski
  • Chung, K. K. H., Freestone, P. S., & Lipski, J. (2011). Expression and functional properties of TRPM2 channels in dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra of the rat. J Neurophysiol, 106 (6), 2865-2875. 10.1152/jn.00994.2010
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Janusz Lipski
  • Cucchiaroni, M. L., Freestone, P. S., Berretta, N., Viscomi, M. T., Bisicchia, E., Okano, H., ... Mercuri, N. B. (2011). Properties of dopaminergic neurons in organotypic mesencephalic-striatal co-cultures - evidence for a facilitatory effect of dopamine on the glutamatergic input mediated by α-1 adrenergic receptors. European Journal of Neuroscience
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Janusz Lipski
  • Freestone, P. S., Chung, K. K. H., Guatteo, E., Mercuri, N. B., Nicholson, L. F. B., & Lipski, J. (2009). Acute action of rotenone on nigral dopaminergic neurons--involvement of reactive oxygen species and disruption of Ca2+ homeostasis. Eur J Neurosci, 30 (10), 1849-1859. 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06990.x
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Janusz Lipski, Louise Nicholson
  • Lipski, J., Park, T. I. H., Li, D., Lee, S. C. W., Trevarton, A. J., Chung, K. K. H., ... Bai, J.-Z. (2006). Involvement of TRP-like channels in the acute ischemic response of hippocampal CA1 neurons in brain slices. Brain Res, 1077 (1), 187-199. 10.1016/j.brainres.2006.01.016
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Janusz Lipski, Jizhong Bai, Thomas Park, Alex Trevarton

Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 502 - Bldg 502
Level 4, Room 401
New Zealand

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