Professor John Stein

College appointment: Emeritus Fellow

Professor John Stein read Animal Physiology at New College, Oxford, then an MSc in Neural Control of Respiration in the University Laboratory of Physiology, Oxford, then clinical medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital, London. He then started training in Neurology, continuing in London, Leicester and Oxford. He was appointed tutor in Medicine at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1970 and retired from that post in 2008, but still continues some teaching for Magdalen and Balliol Colleges, some lecturing and research projects in deep brain stimulation, dyslexia and the role of long chain omega3 fatty acids in optimal brain function.

His research all derives from an initial interest in the visual guidance of movement in computer models, animals, neurological patients and dyslexic children sparked by discovering with Prof Mitchel Glickstein (now at UCL) the magnocellular visual projection from visual cortex to the cerebellum. With Mitch, Prof Alan Gibson, (Barrow Neurological Inst. Phoenix) and Prof Chris Miall (Birmingham U.) he studied the roles of the cerebellum, basal ganglia and brainstem in motor control. With Tipu Aziz, neurosurgeon, he showed that deep brain stimulation (DBS) relieves both akinesia and dyskinesias in Parkinson’s disease by preventing spontaneous oscillations of a brainstem motor network centred on the globus pallidus and pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN). Likewise they found that spontaneous oscillations of the pain matrix are what seem to cause central neuropathic pain, and that eliminating these by DBS can alleviate the pain. Dr Sue Fowler (U. Reading) showed him that like many children with cerebellar lesions, many dyslexic children have unstable eye control that causes their reading problems. They showed that this is often due to impaired development of visual magnocellular neurones, which impacts on attentional and eye control in these dyslexics; and he has shown that simple visual treatments such as viewing text through yellow or blue filters can often dramatically improve their reading. Since magnocellular neurones are highly vulnerable to lack of long chain omega-3 fatty acids, he also found that fish oil supplements can often improve their function and greatly improve attention, social interactions, behaviour and reading progress, not only in dyslexic children, but also in young offenders.. He doesn’t cook fish and his younger brother, famous TV fish chef, Rick Stein, does not do neuroscience!