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Dr Cian O'Donnell

Dr Cian O'Donnell

Dr Cian O'Donnell

Lecturer in Computer Science

Area of research

Computational & Theoretical Neuroscience

Office 3.33 MVB
Merchant Venturers Building,
Woodland Road, Clifton BS8 1UB
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 3315235
+44 (0) 117 3315235


I use computational and mathematical modeling to study synapses, neurons, circuits, and how the brain works.

  • Synaptic plasticity and long-term memory
    Spike-timing-dependent plasticity, memory consolidation, biochemical signalling.
    What computational functions do molecular signals perform for memory?
  • Neural data analysis tools
    Developing analysis tools for "big" neural circuit recording data.
    How can we analyse the activity of more than ~10 neurons at a time?
  • Fragile-X Syndrome and Autism
    What is different about neural circuits in the autistic brain? How does this affect neural coding?
  • Neural noise
    Why is the brain so stochastic?
  • Synaptic integration
    How do single neurons transform complex spatiotemporal inputs into a spike output?


My research uses computational and mathematical modelling to understand how the brain works. I focus on synaptic plasticity (the basis for learning and memory) and the dynamics of neural circuits. Most existing theoretical accounts of brain function ignore molecular neurobiology completety: my aim is to reverse this trend by discovering the computational function of these molecular mechanisms for learning. I'm also interested in applying ideas from theoretical neuroscience to help understand brain disorders such as Autism, Schizophrenia and Depression.

I did my undergraduate in Applied Physics at Dublin City University before switching fields to computational neuroscience for postgrad. This took me to Edinburgh, where I did and MSc and PhD in computational neuroscience in the School of Informatics. I then spent three years doing postdoctoral research at the Salk Institute in sunny San Diego, California, and have returned to the UK to take up a Lectureship in Computer Science at Bristol.



I teach Introduction to Computer Architecture for year 1, and Computational Neuroscience for year 3.


  • Neuroscience
  • Computational Biology
  • Machine Learning

Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system


Dr O'Donnell currently teaches 3 courses:

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