Dr Wenchang Li:
Royal Society University Research Fellow

Research Overview:
Dr Wenchang Li

Dr Wenchang Li
Bute Building
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 9TS

tel: 01334 463579
fax: 01334 463600
room: B12

Related Content:

School of Psychology and Neuroscience
Institute of Behavioural and Neural Sciences
IBANS Animal Cognition

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My research uses young frog tadpoles as a simple model system to study the basic neuronal mechanisms underlying motor control. Apart from basic motor reflexes, tadpoles can swim forward when touched and struggle when held, with both behaviour powered by axial muscles. They also exhibit some acute, concussion-like response when swim into solid objects. The tadpole spinal cord and hindbrain are simple and highly accessible for recordings, making it an ideal place to investigate rules that may be common to the movements of different animal species. I’m also interested in how these mechanisms mature during neural development. Our research methods include electrophysiology, calcium imaging, optogenetics, mRNA microinjections, anatomy and computer modelling.

Recent sample projects

Older projects


Lab members

Yi Lou  PhD student funded by the Chinese Scholarship Council and the University of St Andrews.



PhD positions: I always welcome inquiries from students with genuine research interests on potential PhD projects, which can be on either locomotion or developmental plasticity. You should hold or expect to hold at least an upper second first degree in neuroscience or related subjects.

New PhD research project *EASTBIO* "Whole brain imaging of neuronal activities during motor behaviour using novel molecular tools". Please contact me if you need more details.

China Scholarship Council and University of St Andrews Scholarships This is suitable for students of Chinese nationality in the last year of your BSc or MSc study. The deadline of which is usually January every year. Therefore you need to contact me well in advance to discuss potential projects for your application.

Postdoctoral positions: One post is coming shortly to study how tadpole nervous system switches between swimming and struggling motor programmes. please get in touch if you are interested.


Former lab members

Nicola Porter: PhD student funded by BBSRC, now a free lance science writer.

Dr Peter Moult: postdoctoral research fellow funded by Wellcome Trust, now a lecturer at Abertay University.

Dr Hong-Yan Zhang: short-term postdoctoral research fellow funded by Wellcome Trust, now has her own lab in the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Erik Svensson: postdoctoral research fellow funded by BBSRC, now a postdoctoral researcher in Uppsala Universitet in Sweden.

Monica Wagner:  research assistant funded by BBSRC, now being trained to become a vet.



Dr Steve Soffe and Prof Alan Roberts at the University of Bristol

Prof Roman Borisyuk at Plymouth University

Prof Keith Sillar at the University of St Andrews

Dr Hong-Yan Zhang: at the University of Edinburgh

Dr Xinhua Shu: at Glasgow caledonian University


5 (of 48 published available) for wl21 (source: University of St Andrews PURE)
Please click title of any item for full details

Stimulation of single, possible CHX10 hindbrain neurons turns swimming on and off in young Xenopus tadpoles Wenchang Li, Stephen Soffe
Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 2019 vol.13
The decision to move Alan Roberts, Roman Borisyuk, Edgar Buhl, Andrea Ferrario, Stella Koutsikou, Wenchang Li, Stephen R. Soffe
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 2019 vol.286
The neuronal mechanisms underlying locomotion termination Wenchang Li
Current Opinion in Physiology 2019 vol.8 pp.109-115
A simple decision to move in response to touch reveals basic sensory memory and mechanisms for variable response times Stella Koutsikou, Robert Merrison-Hort, Edgar Buhl, Andrea Ferrario, Wenchang Li, Roman Borisyuk, Stephen R. Soffe, Alan Roberts
The Journal of Physiology vol.In press
Bifurcations of limit cycles in a reduced model of the Xenopus tadpole central pattern generator Andrea Ferrario, Robert Merrison-Hort, Stephen R. Soffe, Wenchang Li, Roman Borisyuk
Journal of Mathematical Neuroscience vol.8