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Eric Downer
Assistant Professor, Physiology


Dr. Eric Downer is an Assistant Professor in Human Health and Disease at TCD (appointed June 2015), and acts as Director of the Human Health and Disease BSc programme. He is currently involved in teaching Physiology to Medical, Physiology, Allied Health Science and Human Health and Disease BSc students. Dr. Downer graduated from TCD with a first class honours degree in Physiology (2001) and a Ph.D in Neuroscience (2005). He began his postdoctoral research career in the Physiology department at TCD with Prof. Marina Lynch (2005 - 2008) and was subsequently awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from IRCSET that enabled him to develop his own research programme based at the Institute of Immunology, NUI Maynooth (2008 - 2010). In 2011 he returned as a senior research fellow with Prof. Marina Lynch at TCIN, also acting as co-ordinator of the PRTLI PhD programme at TCD (2012). He was appointed to his first academic position in UCC in January 2013, where he was a lecturer and PI in the Dept. Anatomy and Neuroscience (Jan 2013 - May 2015) and also the Director of the Biosciences Imaging Centre (June 2014 - May 2015). In June 2015 he was appointed as Assistant Prof. at TCD, where he also acts as Director of the Human Health and Disease BSc programme. He leads an active research group and his research has been funded by the IRC, HRB, the Physiological Society and the British Neuropathological Society. To date he has published 34 articles (32 peer-reviewed journals; 16 first author, 11 senior author; 2 book chapters) and over 50 conference proceedings. Dr. Downer has been honoured with the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland Early Career Award in 2009, the Neuroscience Ireland Early Career Investigator Award in 2013 and a Deans Award for Teaching and Learning (TCD; 2016).

Publications and Further Research Outputs

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Lone, M., McKenna, J.P., Cryan, J.F., Vagg, T., Toulouse, A., Downer, E.J. , Evaluation of an animation tool developed to supplement dental student study of the cranial nerves., Eur J Dent Education., (in press), 2018 Journal Article, 2018

Downer, E.J., Galpha(q) takes centre stage in multiple sclerosis pathogenesis., Cellular and Molecular Immunology , 14(5):, 2017, p401 - 402 Journal Article, 2017

Barry, A., O'Halloran, K., McKenna, McCreary, C., Downer, E.J. , Plasma IL-8 signature correlates with pain and depressive symptomatology in patients with Burning Mouth Syndrome: results from a pilot study. , J Oral Pathol Med. , in press, 2017 Journal Article, 2017

Fitzpatrick, J-M., Downer, E.J., Toll-like Receptor Signalling as a Cannabinoid Target in Multiple Sclerosis. , Neuropharmacology. , 113(Pt B), 2017, p618 - 626 Journal Article, 2017

Lone, M., McKenna, J.P., Cryan, J.F., Downer, E.J., Toulouse, A., Assessment of Thiel-embalmed cadavers as a teaching tool for oral anatomy and local anaesthesia., J Dent Education, 81(4):, 2017, p420 - 426 Journal Article, 2017

Barry, A., Cronin, O, Ryan, A.M., Sweeney, B., Yap, S., O'Toole, O., Allen, A.P., Clarke, G., O'Halloran, K.D., and Downer, E.J., Impact of Exercise on Innate Immunity in Multiple Sclerosis Progression and Symptomatology., Frontiers in Physiology. , 7, 2016, p194- Journal Article, 2016

Fallarino F, Gargaro M, Mondanell G, Downer EJ, Hossain MJ, Gran B, Delineating the Role of Toll-Like Receptors in the Neuro-inflammation Model EAE., Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1390, 2016, p383-411 Journal Article, 2016

Crowley T, Cryan JF, Downer EJ, O'Leary OF, Inhibiting Neuroinflammation: The Role and Therapeutic Potential of Gaba in Neuro-Immune Interactions., Brain, behavior, and immunity, 2016 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

Crowley T, Fitzpatrick JM, Kuijper T, Cryan JF, O'Toole O, O'Leary OF, Downer EJ, Modulation of TLR3/TLR4 inflammatory signaling by the GABAB receptor agonist baclofen in glia and immune cells: relevance to therapeutic effects in multiple sclerosis., Frontiers in cellular neuroscience, 9, 2015, p284 Journal Article, 2015

Fallarino, F., Gargaro, M., Mondanell, G., Downer, E.J., Hossain, M.J. and Gran, B, Delineating the Role of Toll-Like Receptors in the Neuro-inflammation Model EAE., Methods Molecular Biology, (in press), 2015 Journal Article, 2015

Collins, L.M., Downer, E.J., Toulouse, A. and Nolan, Y.M. , Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Phosphatase (MKP)-1 in Nervous System Development and Disease. , Molecular Neurobiology. 51(3):1158-67., 2015 Journal Article, 2015

Prenderville JA, Kelly ÁM, Downer EJ, The role of cannabinoids in adult neurogenesis., British journal of pharmacology, 2015 Journal Article, 2015

Downer, E.J. and Finn, D.P. , Cannabinoids: Clearing the smoke on pain, inflammation and neurodegeneration., British Journal of Pharmacology. , 171(6):, 2014, p1341- Journal Article, 2014

Downer EJ, High hopes for CB(2) receptors in neurogenesis., British journal of pharmacology, 171, (6), 2014, p1345-6 Journal Article, 2014

O'Halloran, S., O'Leary, A., Kuijper, T. and Downer, E.J. , MyD88 acts as an adaptor protein for inflammatory signalling induced by amyloid-β in macrophages. , Immunology Letters. 162(1 Pt A):109-18., 2014 Journal Article, 2014

McDonough P, McKenna JP, McCreary C, Downer EJ, Neuropathic orofacial pain: cannabinoids as a therapeutic avenue., The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology, 55, 2014, p72-8 Journal Article, 2014

Downer EJ, Johnston DG, Lynch MA, Differential role of Dok1 and Dok2 in TLR2-induced inflammatory signaling in glia., Molecular and cellular neurosciences, 56C, 2013, p148-158 Journal Article, 2013 TARA - Full Text DOI

Downer EJ, Jones RS, McDonald CL, Greco E, Brennan S, Connor TJ, Robertson IH, & Lynch MA, Identifying early inflammatory changes in monocyte-derived macrophages from a population with IQ-discrepant episodic memory, PloS one, 8, (5), 2013, pe63194 Journal Article, 2013 DOI

Downer EJ, Clifford E, Amu S, Fallon PG, Moynagh PN, The synthetic cannabinoid R(+)WIN55,212-2 augments interferon-ß expression via peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-"., The Journal of biological chemistry, 287, (30), 2012, p25440-53 Journal Article, 2012

Lyons A, Downer EJ, Costello DA, Murphy N, Lynch MA, Dok2 mediates the CD200Fc attenuation of Aß-induced changes in glia., Journal of neuroinflammation, 9, 2012, p107 Journal Article, 2012 TARA - Full Text DOI

Analysis of the impact of CD200 on neurodengeneration. in, Neurodegenerative Diseases - Processes, Prevention, Protection and Monitoring. , InTec, 2011, [1. Miller, A-M., Deighan, B., Downer, E.J., Lyons, A., Henric-Noak, P., Nolan, Y. and Lynch, M.A. ] Book Chapter, 2011

Downer EJ, Cannabinoids and innate immunity: taking a toll on neuroinflammation., TheScientificWorldJournal, 11, 2011, p855-65 Journal Article, 2011

Downer EJ, Clifford E, Gran B, Nel HJ, Fallon PG, Moynagh PN, Identification of the synthetic cannabinoid R(+)WIN55,212-2 as a novel regulator of IFN regulatory factor 3 activation and IFN-beta expression: relevance to therapeutic effects in models of multiple sclerosis., The Journal of biological chemistry, 286, (12), 2011, p10316-28 Journal Article, 2011

Kelly L, Grehan B, Chiesa AD, O'Mara SM, Downer E, Sahyoun G, Massey KA, Nicolaou A, Lynch MA, The polyunsaturated fatty acids, EPA and DPA exert a protective effect in the hippocampus of the aged rat., Neurobiology of aging, 32, (12), 2011, p2318.e1-15 Journal Article, 2011

Downer EJ, Campbell VA, Phytocannabinoids, CNS cells and development: a dead issue?, Drug and alcohol review, 29, (1), 2010, p91-8 Journal Article, 2010

Lyons A, Lynch AM, Downer EJ, Hanley R, O'Sullivan JB, Smith A, Lynch MA, Fractalkine-induced activation of the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase pathway attentuates microglial activation in vivo and in vitro., Journal of neurochemistry, 110, (5), 2009, p1547-56 Journal Article, 2009

Lyons, A, McQuillan, K, Deighan, BF, O'Reilly, JA, Downer, EJ, Murphy, AC, Watson, M, Piazza, A, O'Connell, F, Griffin, R, Mills, KH, Lynch, MA, Decreased neuronal CD200 expression in IL-4-deficient mice results in increased neuroinflammation in response to lipopolysaccharide., Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 23, (7), 2009, p1020 - 1027 Journal Article, 2009 DOI

Downer EJ, Cowley TR, Cox F, Maher FO, Berezin V, Bock E, Lynch MA, A synthetic NCAM-derived mimetic peptide, FGL, exerts anti-inflammatory properties via IGF-1 and interferon-gamma modulation., Journal of neurochemistry, 109, (5), 2009, p1516-25 Journal Article, 2009

Cannabinoids and Neuroprotection. in, Cannabinoids and the Brain. , Spinger Verlag, 2008, pp317 - 332, [Campbell, V.A. and Downer, E.J. ] Book Chapter, 2008

Downer EJ, Gowran A, Murphy AC, Campbell VA, The tumour suppressor protein, p53, is involved in the activation of the apoptotic cascade by Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in cultured cortical neurons., European journal of pharmacology, 564, (1-3), 2007, p57-65 Journal Article, 2007

Lyons A, Downer EJ, Crotty S, Nolan YM, Mills KH, Lynch MA, CD200 ligand receptor interaction modulates microglial activation in vivo and in vitro: a role for IL-4., The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 27, (31), 2007, p8309-13 Journal Article, 2007

Downer EJ, Gowran A, Campbell VA, A comparison of the apoptotic effect of Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol in the neonatal and adult rat cerebral cortex., Brain research, 1175, 2007, p39-47 Journal Article, 2007

Fogarty MP, Downer EJ, Campbell V, A role for c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1), but not JNK2, in the beta-amyloid-mediated stabilization of protein p53 and induction of the apoptotic cascade in cultured cortical neurons., The Biochemical journal, 371, (Pt 3), 2003, p789-98 Journal Article, 2003

Downer EJ, Fogarty MP, Campbell VA, Tetrahydrocannabinol-induced neurotoxicity depends on CB1 receptor-mediated c-Jun N-terminal kinase activation in cultured cortical neurons., British journal of pharmacology, 140, (3), 2003, p547-57 Journal Article, 2003

Downer E, Boland B, Fogarty M, Campbell V, Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol induces the apoptotic pathway in cultured cortical neurones via activation of the CB1 receptor., Neuroreport, 12, (18), 2001, p3973-8 Journal Article, 2001

Research Expertise


My research background is in neuroimmunology, and I interested in how neuroimmune interactions are controlled under normal physiological conditions and disease states. My laboratory is particularly interested in the pathogenesis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and have published data demonstrating that cells associated with MS pathology display evidence of altered innate immune signalling signatures that may be linked directly with disease pathology. Specifically, my research efforts have focused on Toll-like Receptor (TLR) signalling, and my interest in this area is harboured by the established role of TLRs in innate immunity, in addition to emerging evidence that TLRs are implicated as pivotal players in the pathogenesis of neuroinflammatory disorders including MS. My long-term goal is to consolidate a research group that conducts patient-orientated research by investigating the links between cellular innate immune signalling signatures in peripheral blood cells and the impact of disease on central read-outs of cognition, pain, depression and neurologic disability. By conducting such investigations my research team aims to (a) delineate the role of the innate immune system in disease progression and symptomatology and, (b) investigate the impact of novel therapeutic strategies (cannabinoid-based drugs and exercise) on innate immune responses and disease symptoms in patients. To address this I have built clinical collaborations with Neurologists to access patient cohorts and have begun to profile innate immune profiles with disease parameters in MS patient cohorts. Media articles on my research: Irish Examiner Irish Times Summary of research interests: Neuroimmunology Multiple Sclerosis Innate immune signalling Cannabinoid pharmacology Neuropathology Neuropathic orofacial pain Novel teaching innovations Funding: IRC HRB Physiological Society British Neuropathological Society



External examiner at NUIG and UCC. 2017

Engagement with patient societies' by writing for the MS Ireland patient eZine 2015, 2017

Organising committee: RAMI annual meeting, Trinity College. 2017

Organising committee: Neuroscience Ireland Brain Awareness Outreach Event, Trinity College. 2017

Represented the University as a speaker at the iWISH conference in the RDS (2017) attended by 4,000 students. 2017

Organising committee: Physiology Friday Outreach Event, Trinity College. 2016

Council member: Neuroscience Ireland 2016 - Present

Research highlighted in the Irish Times. 2015

Grant Reviewer: Orthopaedic Research UK. 2015

Director: Biosciences Imaging Centre, Biosciences Building, University College Cork (UCC), Cork, Ireland. 2014 - 2015

Writer for MS patient website ( 2014 - Present

Editor (guest): British Journal of Pharmacology 2014

Grant Reviewer: NUI Postdoctoral Fellowships in the Sciences, NUI Traveling Studentships in the Sciences, Medical Research Council. 2014

Research highlighted in the Irish Examiner. 2013

Organising committee: 6th European Workshop on Cannabinoid Research. 2013

Programme co-ordinator: Structured PRTLI Ph.D programme. Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland. 2012

Organising committee: 4th Annual Workshop on Cannabinoid Research in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin. 2011

Secretary: Irish Cannabinoid Research Committee 2011

Organising committee: 3rd Annual Workshop on Cannabinoid Research in Ireland, NUIM. 2009

Council member: Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland Council member (Biomedical Sciences section) 2009 - Present

Journal Reviewer for approx 20 journals 2008 - Present

Awards and Honours

. Invited speaker at the Personalised Medicine in MS International Symposium, Milan. 2017

. Co-recipient of the Deans Award for Teaching and Learning, Trinity College 2017

. Invited Speaker at iWISH STEM conference, RDS, Dublin, Ireland 2017

. Co-organiser of the RAMI annual meeting, Trinity College 2017

. Co-organiser of the Neuroscience Ireland Brain Awareness Outreach Event, Trinity College. 2017

. Recipient of the Deans Award for Teaching and Learning, Trinity College 2016

. Co-organiser of the Physiology Friday Outreach Event, Trinity College 2016

. Research highlighted in MS Ireland's research eZine 2016

. Research highlighted in the Irish Times 2015

. Selected as Young Colloquia to present research at the Society for Neurochemistry meeting in Cairns, Australia 2015

. Nominated by students (Dental: year 1) for Presidents Award for Excellence in Teaching, UCC 2014

. Invited writer for Industry sponsored patient website ( 2014-Present

. Invited writer for MS Ireland patient newsletter 2014

. Winner of the Neuroscience Ireland Early Career Investigator Award 2013

. Research highlighted by the Irish Examiner 2013

. Host/Organiser of the 6th European Workshop on Cannabinoid Research 2013

. Host of the 4th Annual Workshop on Cannabinoid Research in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin 2011

. Elected council member of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2010-Present

. Shortlisted finalist for the Roche Researcher of the Year Award 2010

. Winner of Early Career Award from the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2009

. One of three early career investigators funded by The Cannabinoid Research Society to present at the NIDA mini convention in Chicago, USA 2009

. Host of the 3rd Annual Workshop on Cannabinoid Research in Ireland, NUIM 2009

. Research highlighted in the Health Research Board "Neuroscience: Brain Matters" bulletin 2005

. Commentary on research in British Journal of Pharmacology (Guzmán, M. 2003, British Journal of Pharmacology, 149, 439-440). 2003

. Research highlighted in the Irish Times and Trinity Student Medical Journal 2002

. Recipient of Enterprise Ireland Postgraduate Award 2001-2004

. Recipient of a Postgraduate Award from Trinity College Dublin in recognition of final year undergraduate results 2001

. Final undergraduate research project ranked 1st in Senior Sophister class 2001


Neuroscience Ireland Council member 2016 – Present

Member of the TCD School of Medicine Appeals committee 2015 – Present

Chair of the Human Health and Disease BSc curriculum committee, Trinity College Dublin 2015 – Present

Chair of the ERASMUS exchange committee (Human Health and Disease; TCD) 2015 – Present

Member of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland 2015 – 2016

Secretary of Irish Cannabinoid Research Committee 2011 – 2013

Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland Council member (Biomedical Sciences section) 2010 – Present