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Dr. Eric Downer
Associate Professor, Physiology
Associate Professor, Trinity Inst. of Neurosciences (TCIN)


Dr. Eric Downer is an Associate Professor in Human Health & Disease at TCD and Director of the Human Health & Disease BSc programme. Dr. Downer graduated from TCD with a first class honours degree in Physiology (2001) and a PhD in Neuroscience (2005). He began his postdoctoral research career in the Physiology department at TCD (2005-2008) and was subsequently awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from IRCSET that enabled him to develop his own research programme based at the Inst. Immunology, NUI Maynooth (2008-2010). In 2011 he returned as a senior research fellow at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, also acting as co-ordinator of the PRTLI structured PhD programme at TCD during this period (2012). He was appointed to his first academic position in University College Cork (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 Professor at TCD, where he also acts as Director of the Human Health and Disease BSc programme. In 2019 he was promoted to Associate Prof. He leads an active research group and his research has been funded by the Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Research Council, the Health Research Board, the Physiological Society, the British Neuropathological Society and Industry grants. To date he has published 49 articles (47 peer-reviewed journals; 17 first author, 23 senior author; 2 book chapters) and 60+ 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, a Deans Award for Teaching and Learning (TCD; 2016), a commendation for shortlisting for the Provost's Teaching Award (TCD; 2019) and is a recipient of the Trinity Excellence in Teaching Award (2021). He Chairs the Human Health and Disease BSc Curriculum committee, he acts as a College Tutor, and he currently sits on the Council for the All Ireland MS research network (AIMS-RN), the School of Medicine Research Ethics Committee and the School Executive Committee.

Publications and Further Research Outputs

Peer-Reviewed Publications

O'Connor, C., Jordan, K., Vagg, T., Murphy, C.E., Barry, D.B., Toulouse, A., Flecther, J., Downer, E.J. , Animated teaching improves student learning of human gastrulation and neurulation., Annals of Anatomy, in press, 2023 Journal Article, 2023 URL DOI

Downer, E.J., Role of Cannabinoids in Inflammaton, Molecules, (27(2), 478), 2022 Journal Article, 2022

John-Mark Fitzpatrick, Becky Hackett, Lisa Costelloe, William Hind and Eric J. Downer , Botanically-Derived Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol, and Their 1:1 Combination, Modulate Toll-like Receptor 3 and 4 Signalling in Immune Cells from People with Multiple Sclerosis, Molecules, 27(6), 1763, 2022 Journal Article, 2022

Damstra-Oddy, J., Warren, E.C., Perry, C.J., Desfougeres, Y., Fitzpatrick, J.M., Schaf, J., Costelloe, L., Hind, W., Downer, E.J., Saiardi, A. and Williams, R.S.B. , Phytocannabinoid-dependent mTORC1 regulation is dependent upon IPMK activity. , Brit. J. Pharmacology. , ((ahead of print)), 2021 Journal Article, 2021

Pereira, S.R., Hackett, B., O'Driscoll, D., Cui Sun, M., and Downer, E.J., Cannabidiol modulation of oxidative stress and signalling. , Neuronal Signaling. , 5(3), 2021 Journal Article, 2021

Fitzpatrick, J.M., Minogue, E., Curham, L., Gavigan, P., Hind, W. and Downer, E.J. , MyD88-dependent and -independent signalling via TLR3 and TLR4 are differentially modulated by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol in human macrophages. , J. Neuroimmunol. 15;343:577217, 2020 Journal Article, 2020

Downer, E.J. , Anti-inflammatory Potential of Terpenes Present in Cannabis sativa L. , ACS Chem Neurosci. , (4;11(5):659-662.), 2020 Journal Article, 2020

Pereira, S.R., Velasquez, J, Duggan, S, Ivanisevic, B, McKenna, J.P., McCreary, C and Downer, E.J. , Recent advances in the understanding of the aetiology and therapeutic strategies in burning mouth syndrome: focus on the actions of cannabinoids. , Eur J Neurosci. , 15;343:577217. , 2020 Journal Article, 2020

Barry, A., Cronin, O, Ryan, A.M., Sweeney, B., O'Toole, O., Allen, A.P., Clarke, G., O'Halloran, K.D., and Downer, E.J. , Cycle ergometer training enhances plasma interleukin-10 in multiple sclerosis. , Neurol Sci. , 40(9): 1933-1936., 2019 Journal Article, 2019

Lone, M., McKenna, J.P., Cryan, J, Vagg, T., Downer, E.J., Toulouse, A. , Development and Assessment of a Three-Dimensional Tooth Morphology Quiz for Dental Students. , Anat. Sci. Education. , 12(3): 284-299., 2019 Journal Article, 2019

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. , 47(2):158-165., 2018 Journal Article, 2018

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., 2(3):e427-e437, 2018 Journal Article, 2018

Barry, A., O'Halloran, K., McKenna, McCreary, C., Brendan Harhen, Daniel M. Kerr, David P. Finn, Downer, E.J. , Plasma N-acylethanolamine and endocannabinoid levels in burning mouth syndrome: potential role in disease pathogenesis. , J Oral Pathol Med. , 47(4):440-442., 2018 Journal Article, 2018

Dowd, E., Downer, E.J., Finn, D.P., Roche, M. , History of cannabinoid research in Ireland., FENS, 2018 Meeting Abstract, 2018

Barry, A., Cronin, O, Ryan, A.M., Sweeney, B., O'Toole, O., Allen, A.P., Clarke, G., O'Halloran, K.D., and Downer, E.J. , Impact of short-term cycle ergometer training on quality of life, cognition and depressive symptomatology in multiple sclerosis patients: a pilot study, Neurological Sciences, 39(3):461-469., 2018 Journal Article, 2018

Lone, M., McKenna, J.P., Cryan, J.F., Vagg, T., Downer, E.J., Toulouse, A. , A Survey of Tooth Morphology Teaching Methods Employed in the United Kingdom and Ireland. , Eur J Dent Education., 2(3):e427-e437., 2018 Journal Article, 2018

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

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

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

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

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, 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

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

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

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, 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

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

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 DOI TARA - Full Text

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

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

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

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

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

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 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 am interested in how the nervous and immune systems interact under normal physiological conditions and disease states. In terms of the direction of my research, my laboratory is focused on patient-orientated research with a network of clinical collaborators established. I am particularly interested in the neuroimmunology of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and have published data demonstrating that immune cells isolated from individuals with MS display evidence of altered innate immune signalling signatures that may be linked directly with disease pathology. Specifically, my research efforts focus on Toll-like Receptor (TLR) signalling, which are sensors of microbes in the body. My interest in this area is harboured by the emerging evidence that TLRs are implicated as key players in the pathogenesis of neuroinflammatory disorders such as MS. My group is focused on investigating the links between immune cell innate immune signalling signatures in peripheral blood cells and the impact of disease on central read-outs of cognition, pain, depression and neurological disability. By conducting such investigations my research team aims to: (a) delineate the role of the innate immune system in disease progression and symptomatology. This will shed light on the underlying cause of disease and thus identify new therpeutic targets. (b) investigate the impact of novel therapeutic strategies in the form of cannabinoid-based drugs, on innate immune responses and disease symptoms in patients. Indeed, I have conducted research in the field of cannabinoids for 19 years, and my laboratory has become recognized as a central hub for patient-orientated research in the area of cannabinoid-based therapeutics in Ireland. To conduct our patient-orientated translational research programmes, I have built links with Pharmaceutical and clinical collaborations to access patient cohorts. Media coverage of my research: Irish Examiner Irish Times TV Summary of research interests: Neuroimmunology Multiple Sclerosis Innate immune signalling Cannabinoid pharmacology Neuropathology Neuropathic orofacial pain Novel teaching innovations Summary of external Funding: Enterprise Ireland Irish Research Council Health Research Board Physiological Society UK Industry sponsors British Neuropathological Society uk Provost's Project Award, TCD Dean's Award for Teaching Innovations, TCD


Awards and Honours

. Nominated by students for the Provosts Teaching Award, (TCD) (2020). This scheme was founded in 2001 and covers all aspects of teaching, learning and assessment, seeking to both reward staff and encourage critical reflection of teaching practices. 2020

. Successfully completed merit bar review by the TCD Junior Promotions Committee (2020). 2020

. Certificate for Excellence in Teaching (Provosts Teaching Award, TCD) (2019). 2019

. Conversion to established post by the TCD Senior Promotions Committee (2019). 2019

. Symposium Chair and Speaker at British Neuroscience Association International Conference, Convention Centre, Dublin (2019). I designed a symposium for this conference, which I Chaired and presented at. 2019

. Awarded accelerated advancement by the TCD Junior Promotions Committee (2018) in recognition to be contribution to research, teaching, college and discipline. 2018

. Communications Officer, Neuroscience Ireland (2018). In this role I maintained the website and produced newsletters and pertinent communications in the field of Neuroscience for Ireland's national Neuroscience Society. 2018

. Research highlighted on TG4 TV documentary "Tabú" - Cinneadh Cannabais" - Exploring the Benefits of Cannabis Treatments. 2018

. Co-organizer of the MS Ireland research Outreach Event, Trinity College Dublin. This event was attended by 150+ members of the public, bringing them up to date with the latest in MS research. 2018

. Invited speaker at Science on Tap public Outreach Event The Liquor Rooms, Dublin. 2017

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

. Co-recipient of the Faculty of Health Sciences Deans Award for Teaching and Learning, Trinity College. This facilitated the development of an immunology learning tool for undergraduate students. 2017

. Invited Speaker at iWISH STEM conference, RDS, Dublin, Ireland. This event was attended by 4,000+ students. I WISH showcases the power of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths to female secondary school students. It is an annual Showcase event run over 4 days in Ireland where to date it has hosted 22,000 girls from 26 counties. 2017

. Co-organizer of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (RAMI) annual research meeting, Trinity College. The Academy of Medicine was formed over 100 years ago by the amalgamation of the four main medical societies - the Dublin Society of Surgeons, the Medical Society of the College of Physicians, the Pathological Society and the Dublin Obstetrical Society. In my role as a council member I participate in organizing research conferences in the Biomedical Science section of the society. 2017

. Co-organizer of the Neuroscience Ireland Brain Awareness Outreach Event, Trinity College. This outreach event was based on dementia and was attended by 150+ members of the general public. 2017

. Recipient of the Deans Award for Teaching and Learning, Trinity College. This facilitated the development of a suite of embryology animation tools with CAPSL to integrate into undergraduate programmes. 2016

. Co-organizer of the Physiology Friday Outreach Event, Trinity College. This event welcomes primary school kids (10-12 year old) to the Dept. Physiology and introduces them to the topic of Physiology from a teaching and research perspective. 2016/2017

. Research highlighted in MS Ireland's research eZine, a newsletter designed to bring readers up to date with the latest activities of the Society, including research. 2016

. Research highlighted in the Irish Times national newspaper in April 2015 in the article "Medical marvel: the uses of cannabis continue to grow". 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, University College Cork 2014

. Invited writer for Industry sponsored patient website ( Living Like You is designed to empower and support people impacted by Multiple Sclerosis to live full lives, through sharing stories, top tips and the latest research. The editorial team address important topics. I have contributed 5 articles to this site. 2014-Present

. Invited writer for MS Ireland society newsletter bringing society members up to date with the latest research findings in the field of MS. 2014

. Winner of the Neuroscience Ireland Early Career Investigator Award in recognition of my contributions to research. 2013

. Research highlighted by the Irish Examiner national newspaper in April 2013. Article title "Irish Scientists Leading Street Drug Research". 2013

. Host/Organizer of the 6th European Workshop on Cannabinoid Research. I was an organizer of this meeting, and also acted as an abstract reviewer on the programme committee, in addition to chairing a symposium. The 6th European Workshop on Cannabinoid Research is the largest scientific conference on cannabis and cannabinoids ever held in Ireland. 2013

. Host of the 4th Annual Workshop on Cannabinoid Research in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, bringing together all cannabinoid research groups in Ireland to discuss research findings and explore funding opportunities. 2011

. Elected council member of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland. In my role as a council member I have participated in organizing research conferences in the Biomedical Science section of the society. 2010-Present

. Shortlisted finalist for the Roche Researcher of the Year Awards. These awards acknowledge the excellence and quality of ongoing research within Ireland. They also recognise the important contribution that postgraduate and postdoctoral research plays within the Irish economy. 2010

. Winner of Early Career Award from the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland. Known as the annual Barcroft Award, this award recognises contribution to research in Biomedicine. 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, NUI Maynooth. This research meeting was attended by all cannabinoid research groups in Ireland. 2009

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

. A commentary on one of my published research articles was published 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 final year class. 2001