Sheffield Institute for
Translational Neuroscience

Dr Daniel Blackburn BSc MBChB MRCP PhD

Honorary Consultant Neurologist

Senior Clinical Lecturer in Neurology

Research Interests

My research interests are into non-invasive diagnostic tests for early dementia or cognitive impairment using electroencephalography (EEG) and conversation analysis.

I am a co-applicant on a NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme: PB-PG-0211-24079 – Using Conversation Analysis in the Differential Diagnosis of Memory Problems: a pilot study is using the technique of conversational analysis to explore how people with and without an organic memory disorder describe their subjective memory complaint. This work is developing an automated system to conduct cognitive screening in memory clinics.

I am PI for an Alzheimer’s Research United Kingdom (ARUK-PPG20114B-25) 2014-2016 (£29,805) project: ‘Developing a new biomarker for the early diagnosis of dementia; a novel non-linear signal processing approach using resting state EEG’. This is in collaboration with Dr Ptolemy Sarrigianis in the Department of Neurophysiology. 


Key Collaborators

  • Dr Heidi Christensen- Senior Lecturer Computer Science
  • Dr Ptolemaios Sarrigiannis, Consultant Neurophysiologist
  • Professor Ananlena Venneri- Neuropsychology & Imaging
  • Dr Matteo De Marco- Neuropsychology & Imaging
  • Professor Markus Reuber- Neurology
  • Dr Traci Walker- Lecturer Department of Human Communication Sciences

Current Projects

  • Quantitative EEG (using Error Reduction Ratio causality test) can record differences in bi-parietal synchronisation between people with Alzheimer’s disease compared to healthy controls.  Funded by Alzheimer’s Research United Kingdom (ARUK-PPG20114B-25) 2014-2016 (£29,805) & Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Pump Priming Award Notification (£7,000), 2018. Investigating potential of QEEG and digital doctor in memory assessment pathways in Kenya.

  • Automated Conversation Analysis to stratify and monitor patients with Cognitive Impairment.

  • Funding Medical Research Council Confidence in Concept. COCOA (COmputerised Cognitive Assessment) – proof-of-concept. 2018-19. £49,513  & Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Pump Priming Award Notification (£7,000), 2018. Investigating potential of QEEG and digital doctor in memory assessment pathways in Kenya

  • Astrocytes play a crucial role in the progression of Motor Neuron Disease. The use of laser capture microdissected astrocytes at different time points from the murine model have shown defects in the normal supportive role- providing cholesterol to neurones as well as an increased immune response. I have now progressed this and with collaborators in SITRAN have produce i-Astrocytes from skin samples of my patients with sporadic AD. 

  • Funding: Alzheimer research UK Preparatory Clinical Research Fellowship (ARUK-PCRF2016A-1: £69998). Jan 2016 & 4wardNorth Wellcome Academy PhD Training Fellowship to fund Dr Simon Bell’s PhD project- Characterising astrocyte metabolic deficits in sporadic and familial AD to identify new therapeutic targets. 2018-2020.

  • PI is Simon Bell who is my academic clinical fellow I am supervising. Collaboration with Professor Stephen WhartonDrs Laura Ferraiuolo and Heather Mortiboys.

  • Investigating roleNeutrophil derived microvesicles: linking systemic inflammation and dementia ARUK: ARUK-PPG2018A-009: PI Julie Simpson. 2018-19.

  • NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme. 14/140/80 Journeying through dementia; randomised controlled trial of clinical and cost effectiveness. 2015-2019. (£2,017,925). This is a collaboration with ScHARR and Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust

Research Team

I co-supervise Katy Barnes with Heather Mortiboys- investigating mitochondrial & metabolic dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease.

I co-supervise Yilin Pan with Heidi Christensen on the development of the automated conversation analysis tool- Digital Doctor of Jenna Littlejohn

I co-supervise two Neurology Academic Clinical fellows:

  1. Dr Simon Bell – has been funded by ARUK, NIHR Sheffield BRC and now Wellcome 4ward north Academy investigating models of sporadic AD using i-astrocytes.
  2. Dr Ronan O’Malley working on the Digital Doctor programme.


  1. Mutant SOD1 G93A microglia have an inflammatory phenotype and elevated production of MCP-1. S.A. Sargsyan, D. Blackburn, S. Barber, P. Monk and P.Shaw. Neuroreport, 20 (16), 1450-55, 2009.

  2. Astrocyte Function and Role in Motor Neuron Disease: A Future Therapeutic Target? D. Blackburn, Siranush Sarsyan, Peter Monk and Pam Shaw. Glia, 57 (12), 1251-64, 2009.

  3. A comparison of in vitro properties of resting SOD1 transgenic microglia reveals signs of reduced neuroprotective function. Siranush A. Sargsyan1, Daniel J. Blackburn2, Siân C. Barber, Julian Grosskreutz, Peter N. Monk, Pamela J. Shaw. BMC Neuroscience, Sep 23, 12 ; 91, 2011.

  4. Cognitive screening in the acute stroke setting. Blackburn, D.J, Bahfeidhal L, Randall, M, Harkness K Age and Ageing 2012. 42(1), 113-6.

  5. Clinical Trials Protocol : Prevention Of Decline in Cognition After Stroke Trial (PODCAST): A factorial randomised controlled trial of intensive versus guideline lowering of blood pressure and lipids (ISRCTN85562386). Daniel J Blackburn, Krishnan et al. Trials. 2013,14: 401. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-14-401.

  6. Memory difficulties are not always a sign of incipient dementia: a review of the possible causes of loss of memory efficiency. Daniel J Blackburn, Sarah Wakefield, Michael F Shanks2, Kirsty Harkness, Markus Reuber, Annalena Venneri. Accepted by British Medical Bulletins 2014, 112:71–81

  7. Conversational assessment in memory clinic encounters: interactional profiling for the differential diagnosis of dementia and functional memory disorder. Danielle Jones, Chris Elsey, Daniel Blackburn, Sarah Wakefield, Kirtsy Harkness, Annalena Venneri, Paul Drew, Markus Reuber. Ageing and Mental Health. 2015 1-10.

  8. Increased Uptake of HIV Testing in Acute Neurology Admissions Using Staged Practical Interventions Dilraj Singh Sokhi, Dr. Chantal Oxenham, Dr. Rebecca Coates1, Dr. Mhairi Forbes, Nadi Gupta and Daniel Blackburn. PLOS One. 2015, 10(9), e0134574.

  9. Towards a diagnostic conversational profile of dementia within memory clinics.Chris Elsey, Paul Drew, Danielle Jones, Daniel Blackburn & Markus Reuber. Patient Educ Couns. 2015, 98(9), 1071-7.

  10. A diagnosis for £55: what is the cost of government initiatives in dementia case finding. Bell S, Harkness K, Dickson J, M, Blackburn D. Age and Ageing 2015, 44(2), 344-5.

  11. Lysosomal and phagocytic activity is increased in astrocytes during disease progression in the SOD1G93A mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. David J. Baker, Daniel J. Blackburn, Marcus Keatinge, Dilraj Sokhi, Paulius Viskaitis,  Paul R. Heath, Laura Ferraiuolo, Janine Kirby and Pamela J. Shaw. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience. 2015, 9:410. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2015.00410.

  12. Functional (Psychogenic) Cognitive Disorders. A Perspective from the neurology clinic. Jon Stone , Suvankar Pal, Daniel Blackburn, Markus Reuber, Parvez Thekkumpurath, Alan Carson. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2015, 48 sup1, s5-s17.

  13. Baseline characteristics, analysis plan and report on feasibility for the Prevention Of Decline in Cognition After Stroke Trial (PODCAST). Polly Scutt, Daniel Blackburn, Sprigg, Alistair Burns, John Reckless, Joanna M Wardlaw, Philip M Bath. Trials. 2015, 16: 509 doi:10.1186/s13063-015-1033-2.

  14. Journeying through Dementia, a community-based self-management intervention for people aged 65 years and over: a feasibility study to inform a future trial. Kirsty Sprange, Gail A. Mountain, Katy Shortland, Claire Craig, Daniel Blackburn, Peter Bowie, Kirsty Harkness and Maggie Spencer. Pilot and Feasibility Studies. 2015. 1:42 DOI 10.1186/s40814-015-0039-6.

  15. Patients who are not driving 6 weeks after TIA have higher levels of anxiety. Simon M Bell, Rejina Maniam, Alisha Patel, Kirsty Harkness, and Daniel Blackburn. Psychogeriatrics. 2016, Jan- DOI: 10.1111/psyg.12194.

  16. Intensive versus guideline blood pressure and lipid lowering in patients with previous stroke: main results from the pilot ‘Prevention Of Decline in Cognition After Stroke Trial’ (PODCAST) randomised controlled trial. Philip M Bath, Polly Scutt, Daniel Blackburn, Sandeep Ankolekar, Kailash Krishnan, Clive Ballard,Alistair Burns, Jonathan Mant Peter Passmore, Stuart Pocock,John Reckless, Nikola Sprigg, Rob Stewart, Joanna M Wardlaw, Gary A Ford. PLOS ONE PLoS ONE 12(1):e0164608 react-text: 62  January 2017

  17. Diagnosing People with Dementia Using Automatic Conversation Analysis. Bahman Mirheidari, Daniel Blackburn, Markus Reuber, Heidi Christensen. Conference Paper DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2016-857 react-text: 54  ·, September 2016.

  18. How the United Kingdom describes functional memory symptoms. Cate Bailey, Simon M Bell and Daniel J Blackburn. Psychogeriatrics  2017 Feb 1. doi: 10.1111/psyg.12232. DOI:10.1111/psyg.12232

  19. Towards the automation of diagnostic conversation analysis in patients with memory complaints. Bahman Mirheidari, Daniel Blackburn, Kirsty Harkness, Traci Walker, Annalena Venneri, Markus Reuber, and Heidi Christensen. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. vol. 58, no. 2, pp. 373-387, 2017. DOI: 10.3233/JAD-160507

  20. Distinctive Neuropsychological Profiles Differentiate Patients with Functional Memory Disorder from Patients with Amnestic-Mild Cognitive Impairment. Sarah J Wakefield; Daniel J Blackburn; Kirsty Harkness; Aijaz Khan; Markus Reuber, Annalena Venneri. Acta Neuropsychiatrica. DOI: Published online: 17 July 2017

  21. An Avatar-based system for identifying individuals likely to develop dementia. Bahman Mirheidari, Daniel Blackburn, Kirsty Harkness, Traci Walker, Annalena Venneri, Markus Reuber, and Heidi Christensen. Interspeech conference paper, 2017. DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-690 Conference: Interspeech 2017

  22. Identifying Patterns of Communication in Patients Attending Memory Clinics: A Systematic Review of Observations and Signs with Potential Diagnostic Utility. Cate Bailey, Norman Poole, Daniel J Blackburn. British Journal of General Practice. January, 2018; bjgp18X694601. DOI:

  23. Detecting signs of dementia using word vector representations Bahman Mirheidari, Daniel Blackburn, Traci Walker, Annalena Venneri, Markus Reuber, and Heidi Christensen. Interspeech conference paper, 2018 accepted.

  24. A Pilot Study Investigating a Novel Non-Linear Measure of Eyes Open versus Eyes Closed EEG Synchronization in People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Controls. Daniel J Blackburn, Yifan Zhao, Matteo De Marco, Simon M Bell, Fei He, Hua-Liang Wei, Sarah Lawrence, Zoe C Unwin, Michelle Blyth, Jenna Angel, Kathleen Baster, Thomas FD Farrow, Iain D Wilkinson, Stephen A Billings, Annalena Venneri, Ptolemaios G Sarrigiannis. Brain Science, 2018. 8 (7). DOI10.3390/brainsci8070134

  25. Dementia detection using automatic analysis of conversations. Bahman Mirheidari, Daniel Blackburn, Traci Walker, Annalena Venneri, Markus Reuber, and Heidi Christensen. Computer Speech & Language 53 (2018) 65-79.

  26. Patients’ accounts of memory lapses in interactions between neurologists and patients with functional memory disorders. Marc Alexander, Daniel Blackburn, Markus Reuber, Sociology of Health and Illness. 2018 Aug 31. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12819

  27. Intelligent Virtual Agents vs doctors in the memory clinic: the diagnostic benefits of human-computer interaction. Traci Walker Bahman Mirheidari, Daniel Blackburn, Annalena Venneri, Markus Reuber, and Heidi Christensen. Dementia (London). 2018 Sep 14:1471301218795238. doi: 10.1177/1471301218795238.

  28. Ursodeoxycholic acid improves mitochondrial function and redistributes Drp1 in fibroblasts from patients with either sporadic or familial Alzheimer’s disease. Simon M Bell, Katy Barnes, Hannah Clemmens, Aziza R. Al-Rafiah, Ebtisam A. Al-ofi, Vicki Leech, Oliver Bandmann, Pamela J Shaw, Daniel J Blackburn, Laura Ferraiuoloa, Heather Mortiboys. Accepted Journal of Molecular Biology

  29. Progress toward standardized diagnosis of vascular cognitive impairment: Guidelines from the Vascular Impairment of Cognition Classification Consensus Study. March 2018. Alzheimer's and Dementia 14(3):280-292. DOI: 10.1016/j.jalz.2017.09.007

Professional Activities

  • Secretary of the Special Interest Group in Cognitive Disorders – Association of British Neurologists
  • Member of the Training and Education Committee - Association of British Neurologists
  • Member of the Translational Neuropsychology Group, University of Sheffield led by Professor Annalena Venneri
  • Member of the South Yorkshire Interest Group in Dementia.
  • I am a module leader the MSc in Clinical Neurology 


I completed my undergraduate medical degree in Liverpool in 1998 and did my medical training in London.  I have worked as a neurology SpR in Singapore and Nottingham prior to joining the University of Sheffield as a PhD student in 2005.  I worked as a clinical lecturer in neurology from 2010-2013 and started as consultant neurology in 2013 before taking up my Senior Lecturer post in 2017.  My main subspecialty interest is in dementia.

Teaching Interests

I am co- module leader on two parts of the MSc in Clinical Neurology and lead the research projects module.  I helped set up this MSc and develop the curriculum and teaching components.  I teach undergraduate medical students.

Contact Details

Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience,
University of Sheffield, 
385A Glossop Road
S10 2HQ

T: +44 (0) 114 215 9100 

Academic Administrator:
Bethany Walker
T: +44 (0)114 22 22262