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Yvonne Nolan


Yvonne Nolan is a Professor in Anatomy and Neuroscience, Funded Investigator in APC Microbiome Ireland and Vice Dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Medicine and Health at University College Cork. Yvonne graduated from NUI, Galway with a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry, and a PhD in Neuropharmacology. She was a visiting scholar at McGill University Montreal, Canada and held postdoctoral positions in Trinity College, Dublin. In 2003 she was appointed as Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, UCC. She was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2011 and to Professor in 2020.

Research in Professor Nolan’s team investigates the impact of modifiable lifestyle factors such as exercise, stress and diet on memory and mood though the lifespan. The role of the gut microbiome, inflammation and hippocampal neurogenesis is of particular interest.  To date she has supervised >40 PhD/MSc(research)/postdoctoral researchers and numerous visiting and undergraduate students. She was awarded UCC’s Research Supervisor of the Year Award in 2016. She has secured ~€6M in funding from Science Foundation Ireland, Reta Lila Weston Trust, Marigot Ltd, Irish Research Council and Vasogen Inc., Canada. She was consortium lead on a recent European Centres of Excellence in Neurodegeneration project.

As Vice Dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Medicine and Health her mission for Graduate Studies is to 'advance curiosity-driven professionalism and research excellence for health-related global challenges, in a student-centred, respectful and inclusive environment.' With her team on the Graduate Studies committee, she is committed to supporting postgraduate students

Yvonne contributes to the scientific and wider community through research projects with Down Syndrome Cork and industrial partners, and public talks on adolescent and older adult brain health. She has organised conferences, symposia and public events including a symposium on the "Hippocampus in Health and Disease" in 2014 with guest speaker Nobel Laureate John O'Keefe. She sits on the Independent Advisory Board for the Wellcome/HRB Irish Clinical Academic Training (ICAT) programme. She is a member of the Executive Committee of UCC Future Ageing and Brain Science, and of the College of Medicine and Health Executive Management Committee, UCC.


Research Interests

Inflammation is a key contributor to the cognitive or motor decline associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or Parkinson’s disease (PD), and to the cognitive deficits associated with stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression. Injury, stress, exposure to environmental toxins or endogenous disease proteins, infection or age can induce prolonged activation of microglia, the resident immune cells of the brain. Consequently, microglial-derived pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-1b (IL-1b) and tumour necrosis factor-a (TNFa) are thought to be deleterious to the function and survival of neurons. Loss of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons in PD patients is accompanied by microglial activation, and it is now thought that pro-inflammatory cytokines contribute to the loss of dopaminergic neurons responsible for the manifestation of the motor symptoms of the disease. Pro-inflammatory cytokines also negatively regulate neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons), during embryonic development and in the hippocampus of the adult brain, and it is now known that neurogenesis plays a crucial role in learning, memory and neural plasticity. In parallel, cognitive dysfunction is a feature of many neurodegenerative and stress-related psychiatric disorders. While inflammation is detrimental to neurogenesis and cognition, physical exercise is a potent promoter of neurogenesis and facilitates learning and cognition. Current research in my lab aims to decipher the role of inflammation and physical activity in changes in dopaminergic neurons to PD, and in hippocampal neurogenesis. Thus the overall aim of her research is to identify and develop pro-cognitive interventions and therapies to counteract the negative effects of brain inflammation.

H-index: 19; Citations >1200 (Web of ScienceTM)

Grants and Funding: > €2 million in research funding (€358,000 is non-exchequer) from grants to fund projects as the Lead Investigator.


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Yvonne Nolan

Contact Details:


Funded Investigators

APC Microbiome Ireland

Biosciences Building, University College Cork, Ireland,