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Dr Stella Koutsikou

Lecturer of Biological Sciences

Medway School of Pharmacy



Dr Stella Koutsikou graduated with an MSc in Neuroscience (1999) from the University of Edinburgh, she completed her PhD in Physiology (2004) from the University of Bristol, under the supervision of Professor Sally Lawson.

Stella’s initial postdoctoral work at the University of Bristol, with Professor Bridget Lumb and Dr. Frankie MacMillan, focused on midbrain periaqueductal grey (PAG) descending control of pain processing at the level of the spinal cord. In subsequent years, through collaboration with Professor Richard Apps, the research expanded into investigating how the PAG interacts with spinal and supraspinal motor circuits to co-ordinate behavioural responses essential to survival. During this time, Stella developed a strong interest for the role of midbrain and brainstem in survival behaviours. Her most recent work with Dr Steve Soffe and Professor Alan Roberts enabled her to study midbrain single cell contributions to behaviour utilising the Xenopus laevis tadpole.

Dr Stella Koutsikou joined the Medway School of Pharmacy in June 2017 as a Lecturer in Biological Sciences. She holds an Honorary Senior Research Fellow position at the University of Bristol, where she collaborates with colleagues in the Schools of Biological Sciences, Physiology Pharmacology & Neuroscience and Veterinary Sciences.

Specialist Areas

Midbrain & Brainstem; Xenopus tadpole neurobiology; Behavioural Neuroscience; Defence/Arousal system; Survival Behaviours

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Recent publications

  • Koutsikou S*, Merrison-Hort R, Buhl E, Ferrario A, Li WC, Borisyuk R, Soffe SR & Roberts A (2018) A simple decision to move in response to touch reveals basic sensory memory and mechanisms for variable response times. The Journal of Physiology 596(24): 6219-6233. *Corresponding author (This article is highlighted in a Perspectives article by Kardamakis A.,
  • Lawrenson CL, Koutsikou S, Apps R, Lumb BM (2017) Cerebellar contributions to fear behaviour. Clinical Neurophysiology 128(9): e239
  • Borisyuk R, Merrison-Hort R, Soffe SR, Koutsikou S, Li, WC (2017) To swim or not to swim: A population-level model of Xenopus tadpole decision making and locomotor behaviour. BioSystems DOI: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2017.07.004
  • Smith M, Taylor C, Weerasinghe N, Koutsikou S, Lumb B, Murrell J. (2016) Does inflammation induced by ultraviolet B and heat rekindling alter pain-related behaviour in rats? Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia 43(5):579-585.
  • Koutsikou S, Watson TC, Crook JJ, Leith JL, Lawrenson CL, Apps R, Lumb BM. (2015) The periaqueductal gray orchestrates sensory and motor circuits at multiple levels of the neuraxis. Journal of Neuroscience 35(42):14132-47.
  • Watson TC, Koutsikou S, Apps R, Jones, MW, eds. (2015) Distributed Networks: New Outlooks on Cerebellar Function. Lausanne: Frontiers Media. doi: 10.3389/978-2-88919-626-5.
  • Loft MSE, Koutsikou S, Cerminara NL, Apps R. (2015) Cerebellar-Basal Ganglia Communication: Physiological Evidence of a Fast Route for Interaction. In Proceedings of the workshop on Cerebellum, Basal Ganglia and Cortical Connections Unmasked in Health and Disorder held in Brno, Czech Republic, October 17th, 2013. Cerebellum 14:142-150.
  • Koutsikou S, Crook JJ, Earl EV, Leith JL, Watson TC, Lumb BM, Apps R. (2014) Neural substrates underlying fear-evoked freezing: the periaqueductal grey-cerebellar link. Journal of Physiology 592:2197-2213.
  • Weerasinghe NS, Lumb BM, Apps R, Koutsikou S, Murrell JC. (2014) Objective Validation of Central Sensitisation in the Rat UVB and Heat Rekindling Model. European Journal of Pain 18: 1199-1206.


  • Roberts A, Borisyuk R, Buhl E, Ferrario A, Koutsikou S, Li W-C, Soffe SR (2019) The decision to move: response times, neuronal circuits and sensory memory in a simple vertebrate. Proceeding of the Royal Society B 20190297.
  • Koutsikou S, Apps R, Lumb BM (2017) Top down control of spinal sensorimotor circuits essential for survival. Journal of Physiology DOI: 10.1113/JP273360. *Corresponding author
  • Hainer C, Mosienko V, Koutsikou S, Crook JJ, Gloss B, Kasparov S, Lumb BM, Alenina N. (2015) Beyond Gene Inactivation: Evolution of Tools for Analysis of Serotonergic Circuitry. ACS Chemical Neuroscience 6:1116-1129.
  • Watson TC, Koutsikou S, Cerminara NL, Flavell CR, Crook JJ, Lumb BM, Apps R. (2013) The olivo-cerebellar system and its relationship to survival circuits. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 7:72.

Book editing

  • Watson TC, Koutsikou S, Apps R, Jones, MW, eds. (2015) Distributed Networks: New Outlooks on Cerebellar Function. Lausanne: Frontiers Media. doi: 10.3389/978-2-88919-626-5.

Full list of publications

  • Djouhri L, Fang X, Koutsikou S, Lawson SN. (2012) Partial nerve injury induces electrophysiological changes in conducting (uninjured) nociceptive and nonnociceptive DRG neurons: Possible relationships to aspects of peripheral neuropathic pain and paresthesias. Pain 153:1824-1836.
  • Leith JL, Koutsikou S, Lumb BM, Apps R. (2010) Spinal processing of noxious and innocuous cold information: differential modulation by the periaqueductal gray. Journal of Neuroscience 30(14):4933-4942.
  • Cerminara NL, Koutsikou S, Lumb BM, Apps R. (2009) The periaqueductal grey modulates sensory input to the cerebellum: a role in coping behaviour? European Journal of Neuroscience 229:2197-2206.
  • Parry DM, Macmillan FM, Koutsikou S, McMullan S, Lumb BM. (2008) Separation of A- versus C-nociceptive inputs into spinal-brainstem circuits. Neuroscience 152:1076-1085.
  • Koutsikou S*, Parry DM, Macmillan FM, Lumb BM. (2007) Laminar organization of spinal dorsal horn neurones activated by C- vs. A-heat nociceptors and their descending control from the periaqueductal grey in the rat. European Journal of Neuroscience 26:943-952. *Corresponding author
  • Djouhri L, Koutsikou S, Fang X, McMullan S, Lawson SN. (2006) Spontaneous pain, both neuropathic and inflammatory, is related to frequency of spontaneous firing in intact C-fiber nociceptors. Journal of Neuroscience 26:1281-1292.


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Last Updated 22/03/2019