Prof. Karen Horsburgh

Our overall research goal is to identify mechanisms underlying white matter abnormalities and cognitive decline relevant to cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in order to find new targets for treatments.

Professor Karen Horsburgh 

Personal Chair of Neuroscience

Professor Karen Horsburgh

The Chancellor's Building

49 Little France Crescent

EH16 4SB

Contact details

 Work: +44 (0) 131 242 6216 


Personal Profile

  • 2015-present : MRC Dementia Platform UK: Vascular Experimental Medicine theme committee
  • 2017: Stroke priority award in Vascular dementia
  • 2017-2022 : Alzheimer’s Society Strategy committee
  • 2015-2021 : Lead PI Alzheimer’s Society Scotland doctoral training programme
  • 2012-present : Personal Chair of Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh
  • 2011-2020 : Co-ordinator Alzheimer’s Research UK Scotland network
  • 2009-2012 : Reader in Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh
  • 2007-2013 : Scientific advisory board of Alzheimer’s Research UK
  • 2006-2010 : Scientific member of Medical Research Scotland
  • 2002-2008 : Wellcome Trust University Award Lecturer & Senior Research Fellow,  University of Edinburgh
  • 1996-2002 : Research Fellow (Wellcome Trust), Neuropathology, University of Glasgow
  • 1993–1996 : S.H.E.R.T./Mrs. Jean Baxter Medical Research Fellow,  Wellcome Surgical Institute, University of Glasgow
  • 1991-1992 : Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Dr. Tsunao Saitoh), Department of Neurosciences, University of California San Diego
  • 1987-1991 : PhD  (Prof. James McCulloch), Wellcome Surgical Institute, University of Glasgow
  • 1983-1987 : BSc. Hons Pharmacology, University of Glasgow

Research Overview

White matter abnormalities, a core feature of cerebrovascular disease,  are predictive of vascular cognitive impairment and greatly increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the clinical significance of white matter abnormalities there remains no disease modifying therapeutic. Thus our studies in unique cohorts of human post-mortem tissues linked to models of vascular cognitive impairment have focussed on providing mechanistic insight to the development and progression of  white matter changes in order to find new treatment targets. We highlighted the vulnerability of white matter to vascular disturbances that involves key pathomechanisms such as disruption of microglia homeostasis, endothelial cell dysfunction, blood brain barrier breakdown and microvascular inflammation. We demonstrated the beneficial effect of immunomodulatory treatment in the development of white matter damage. Emerging evidence suggests microglia state (abundance/function) via interactions with endothelial cells influence white matter abnormalities and cognitive abilities. We are currently investigating how specific regulators of microglia state influence microglia-endothelial cell interactions in the development and progression of white matter damage in human post-mortem cohorts and in models of vascular cognitive impairment. A range of approaches are underway including single cell technologies (sc/snRNAseq. spatial multiplexed RNAscope in situ hybridisation) combined with developments in in vivo imaging including  MRI/DTI/PET  and 2P imaging within white matter.

Group Members

  • Juraj Koudelka, Post-doctoral Researcher Fellow & UK DRI Microscopy Manager
  • Currently recruiting post-doctoral researchers (in vivo, informatics) and PhD students



Selected Recent Publications

Information for students:

Willingness to discuss research projects with undergraduate and postgraduate students: YES - please click here