Prof. Karen Horsburgh

Prof. Horsburgh's biography and research focus, plus details of the Horsburgh Lab

Professor Karen Horsburgh 

Personal Chair of Neuroscience

The Chancellor's Building

49 Little France Crescent

EH16 4SB

Contact details

 Work: +44 (0) 131 242 6216 


Biographical Profile

Karen Horsburgh received a BSc in Pharmacology and a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow. After two years at an Alzheimer’s Disease Institute (Dept. of Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego) she returned to the University of Glasgow and awarded a SHERT/Mrs Jean Baxter Research Fellowship. In May 2002 she received a Wellcome Trust University Award and moved to the University of Edinburgh. She currently holds the position of Professor of Neuroscience. She has served on the research panels of Medical Research Scotland and Alzheimer’s Research UK. Karen is lead co-ordinator of an Alzheimer’s Society doctoral training programme and  an Alzheimer’s Research UK network in Scotland. She is currently a member of the MRC Dementia Platform UK Vascular Experimental Medicine committee.

Research Overview

Our research investigates the mechanisms underlying cognitive decline relevant to Cerebral Vascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with the aim to identify novel targets for therapeutic strategies to slow the rate of cognitive decline and prevent dementia. Chronic cerebrovascular pathology is a leading cause of dementia, and arguably represents the most important modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Despite this importance, the mechanisms and pathways contributing to vascular cognitive impairment have largely remained elusive. Central to the pathophysiology of cerebral microvascular disease is likely to be disruption of the finely tuned interplay between the cells in the neurovascular unit (NVU) that form an essential bridge between blood and neuron. The molecular basis of NVU dysfunctions that lead to cerebral microvascular disease and dementia, and the molecular signals underlying cross-talk between different cell types of the NVU, are still poorly understood and are a focus of our research in experimental models and human post-mortem tissues. Our current work is focussed on mechanisms related to endothelial cell activation and microvascular inflammation in models of vascular cognitive impairment.

Group Members


Our current work is funded by:

Alzheimer’s UK

Alzheimer’s Society


Dr.Jill Fowler (CNR, University of Edinburgh)

Dr.Barry McColl (Roslin Institute)

Dr. Maurits Jansen (CVS, University of Edinburgh)

Dr. Adriana Tavares  (CVS, University of Edinburgh)

Prof. Ian Marshall  (CCBS, University of Edinburgh)

Prof. Joanna Wardlaw  (CCBS, University of Edinburgh)

Prof. Raj Kalaria (University of Newcastle)

Dr. Masafumi Ihara (Kyoto University)

Prof. Ajay Shah (Kings College London)

Selected Recent Publications

Key Earlier Publications

  • James R, Searcy JL, Le Bihan T, Martin  S, Roses A, Gliddon CM, Deighton RF, Kerr LE, McCulloch J, Horsburgh K. (2012) Genotype dependant differences in the mitochondrial proteomic response to an ischaemic challenge. JCBFM 32(1):164-76
  • Reimer MM, McQueen J, Searcy, Zonta B, Desmazieres A, Smith J, Gliddon C, ScullionG, Wood E, Herzyk P, Brophy P, McCulloch J, Horsburgh K.  (2011) Rapid disruption of axon-glial integrity in response to mild cerebral hypoperfusion. J Neurosci 31(49):18185-94.
  • Bell KFS, Al-Mubarak B, Fowler JH, Baxter PS, Tsujita T, Chowdhry S, Horsburgh K, Hayes JD,  Hardingham GE  (2011) Mild oxidative stress activates Nrf2 in astrocytes which contributes to neuroprotective ischemic preconditioning  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.  108(1):E1-2.
  • Holland PR, Bastin ME, Jansen MA, Merrifield GD, Coltman RB, Scott F, Nowers H, Khallout K, Marshall I, Wardlaw J, Deary IJ, McCulloch J,  Horsburgh K. (2011) MRI is a sensitive marker of subtle white matter pathology in hypoperfused mice. Neurobiol Aging 32(12):2325.e1-6.

  • Coltman R, Spain A, Tsenkina Y, Fowler JH, Smith J, Allerhand M, Scott F, Kalaria RN, Ihara M, Daumas S, Deary IJ, Wood E, McCulloch J, Horsburgh K.  (2011) Spatial memory in mice remains intact despite widespread white matter pathology Neurobiol Aging   32(12):2324.e7-2324.e12.


Information for students:

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