Dr Bill Connelly’s research is driven by pure curiosity. ‘The brain is the most complex device in the known universe. It’s responsible for literally everything we experience from the moment we are born until the moment we die, and yet we know almost nothing about how it works as a whole. I would argue that the number of brain functions we can explain in complete detail can be counted on one hand. In the face of that fact, it’s impossible not to be curious.’
Dr Connelly focuses on fundamental research into the way the brain works, using a collection of methods called electrophysiology for studying the electrical language of individual brain cells and small networks of brain cells. With real time brain imaging (a new image is produced 30 times a second) it’s possible to see how individual brain cells behave. ‘It’s exciting when a new technique allows me to gather information that previously has been unavailable,’ he says.
The field of neuroscience came to Dr Connelly’s attention somewhat fortuitously. ‘When I was getting ready to leave high school, I was lined up to study electrical engineering. And I knew the brain had something to do with electricity, so I looked it up. I found an issue of the Journal of Neuroscience and I was absolutely blown away by what seemed to be this foreign language. I couldn’t understand any of it! I was gripped by curiosity. And I’ve been trying to understand more about the brain ever since.’
Dr Connelly has contributed to numerous areas of brain research. One of his most significant discoveries to date relates to the part of the brain called the thalamus. ‘What we did was show that instead of it just being a one-way pathway, whereby information from the environment is trafficked straight to higher areas of the brain, there is a two-way conversation going on. The other parts of the brain can send information back to the thalamus to control the activity of its cells.’ What this means is still unclear for how the brain functions as a whole and opens up new areas for research.
Another of his discoveries was the existence of a fourth histamine receptor in the brain. ‘Everybody is aware of antihistamine drugs that block the naturally produced compound histamine that causes inflammation. But histamine is also a neurotransmitter released by neurons in the brain. Other neurons sense this and change their behaviour as a result.’ It was thought that only three receptors existed for histamine in the brain. Histamine plays a large role in regulating sleep and wake cycles, and more research is being done on how these processes operate.
‘I’ve worked in Europe and other places in Australia, but nowhere else I’ve been,’ he declares, ‘strikes such a perfect balance between a great place to raise a family and a great place to do science. UTAS has excellent facilities, research infrastructure, and equipment.’
Dr Connelly describes the brain as ‘a biological computer that somehow performs all the tasks that give rise to perception, emotion and memory’. The brain is the seat of our conscious experience, while operating numerous subconscious reflexes and countless bodily functions. ‘And yet,’ he says, ‘the individual components of the brain – the neurons – work more slowly than the first general purpose computers of the 1940s. It’s a mystery how it does all these things.
‘If I could leave this world with a complete understanding of just a single computation that the brain performs, I would be satisfied. If it led scientists in the future to better understand how the brain produces the mind, I would be ecstatic.’
Dr William Connelly is a Neuroscientist and Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine. His research has focused on how individual neurons and groups of neurons perform computations.
Dr William Connelly completed his PhD at the University of Otago, NZ, where he used electrophysiology to study inhibitory neurotransmission in the central nervous system. He then took up a post-doctoral position with Prof. Vincenzo Crunelli, Cardiff University, UK, where he published on the pharmacology of the drug GHB, how inhibitory neurotransmission modulates itself, and most notably, on the physiology of thalamocortical neurons. He then took up a position working with Prof Greg Stuart, Australian National University, where he worked on trying to understand synaptic integration in the visual cortex.
In 2018 he took up a Senior Lectureship at the University of Tasmania.
Dr Connelly has a broad interest in neuroscience. His work has touched on how individual neurons process information, how drugs effect the brain and how the brain is altered by epilepsy. He wishes to continue these themes and expand them. Specifically, he seeks to understand how hallucinogenic drugs like LSD alter visual perception and how hunger and fullness signals are processed by the brain.
Fields of Research
- Cellular nervous system (320902)
- Central nervous system (320903)
- Sensory systems (320907)
- Vision science (321204)
- Basic pharmacology (321401)
- Clinical health (200199)
- Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences (280102)
- Other health (209999)
- Expanding knowledge in the health sciences (280112)
Journal Article(16 outputs)
|2019||Connelly WM, Stuart GJ, 'Local versus global dendritic integration', Neuron, 103, (2) pp. 173-174. ISSN 0896-6273 (2019) [Letter or Note in Journal]|
|2019||Trent S, Hall J, Connelly WM, Errington AC, 'Cyfip1 haploinsufficiency does not alter GABAA receptor δ-subunit expression and tonic inhibition in dentate gyrus PV+ interneurons and granule cells', eNeuro, 6, (3) Article 0364-18. ISSN 2373-2822 (2019) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Web of Science - 1
|2018||Crunelli V, Lorincz ML, Connelly WM, David F, Hughes SW, et al., 'Dual function of thalamic low-vigilance state oscillations: rhythm-regulation and plasticity', Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 19, (2) pp. 107-118. ISSN 1471-003X (2018) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 37Web of Science - 35
|2018||McCafferty C, Connelly WM, Celli R, Ngomba RT, Nicoletti F, et al., 'Letter to the Editor: Genetic rescue of absence seizures', CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 24, (8) pp. 745-758. ISSN 1755-5930 (2018) [Letter or Note in Journal]|
Citations: Scopus - 1Web of Science - 1
|2017||Connelly WM, Crunelli V, Errington AC, 'Variable action potential backpropagation during tonic firing and low-threshold spike bursts in thalamocortical but not thalamic reticular nucleus neurons', Journal of Neuroscience, 37, (21) pp. 5319-5333. ISSN 0270-6474 (2017) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 4Web of Science - 3
|2016||Connelly WM, Crunelli V, Errington AC, 'Passive Synaptic Normalization and Input Synchrony-Dependent Amplification of Cortical Feedback in Thalamocortical Neuron Dendrites', Journal of Neuroscience, 36, (13) pp. 3735-3754. ISSN 0270-6474 (2016) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 10Web of Science - 8
|2016||Connelly WM, Laing M, Errington AC, Crunelli V, 'The Thalamus as a Low Pass Filter: Filtering at the Cellular Level does Not Equate with Filtering at the Network Level', Frontiers in neural circuits, 9 Article 89. ISSN 1662-5110 (2016) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 4Web of Science - 6
|2015||Connelly WM, Crunelli V, Errington AC, 'The global spike: conserved dendritic properties enable unique Ca2+ spike generation in low-threshold spiking neurons', Journal of Neuroscience, 35, (47) pp. 15505-15522. ISSN 0270-6474 (2015) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 16Web of Science - 15
|2015||Lorincz ML, Gunner D, Bao Y, Connelly WM, Isaac JT, et al., 'A distinct class of slow (⁓0.2-2 Hz) intrinsically bursting layer 5 pyramidal neurons determines UP/DOWN state dynamics in the neocortex', Journal of Neuroscience, 35, (14) pp. 5442-5458. ISSN 0270-6474 (2015) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 29Web of Science - 30
|2014||Connelly WM, 'Autaptic connections and synaptic depression constrain and promote gamma oscillations', PloS One, 9, (2) Article e89995. ISSN 1932-6203 (2014) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 24Web of Science - 24
|2014||Hulme SR, Connelly WM, 'L-type calcium channel-dependent inhibitory plasticity in the thalamus', Journal of Neurophysiology, 112, (9) pp. 2037-2039. ISSN 0022-3077 (2014) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 3
|2013||Connelly WM, Errington AC, Crunelli V, 'γ-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) is not an agonist of extrasynaptic GABAA receptors', PLoS One, 8, (11) Article e79062. ISSN 1932-6203 (2013) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 21Web of Science - 20
|2013||Connelly WM, Errington AC, Di Giovanni G, Crunelli V, 'Metabotropic regulation of extrasynaptic GABAA receptors', Frontiers in neural circuits, 7 pp. 1-8. ISSN 1662-5110 (2013) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Web of Science - 28
|2013||Connelly WM, Fyson SJ, Errington AC, McCafferty CP, Cope DW, et al., 'GABAB Receptors Regulate Extrasynaptic GABAA Receptors', Journal of Neuroscience, 33, (9) pp. 3780-3785. ISSN 0270-6474 (2013) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 66Web of Science - 58
|2010||Connelly WM, Schulz JM, Lees G, Reynolds JNJ, 'Differential short-term plasticity at convergent inhibitory synapses to the substantia nigra pars reticulata', Journal of Neuroscience, 30, (44) pp. 14854-14861. ISSN 0270-6474 (2010) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 41Web of Science - 42
|2009||Connelly WM, Shenton FC, Lethbridge N, Leurs R, Waldvogel HJ, et al., 'The histamine H4 receptor is functionally expressed on neurons in the mammalian CNS', British Journal of Pharmacology, 157, (1) pp. 55-63. ISSN 0007-1188 (2009) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 145Web of Science - 138
|PhD||Manipulating cortical Activity and Behaviour using a Novel, Low Conductance, Long-lasting Excitatory Channelrhodopsin (PReaChR)||2020|