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. 

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. Alzheimer’s Research United Kingdom (ARUK-PPG20114B-25) 2014-2016 (£29,805).

  • Conversation Analysis is a useful technique to detect features that can distinguish between Functional Memory Disorder (FMD) and neurodegenerative dementias.

  • 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. Alzheimer research UK Preparatory Clinical Research Fellowship (ARUK-PCRF2016A-1: £69998).Jan 2016. Creating an Astrocyte model of Alzheimer’s disease using induced Neural Progenitor Cell Technology PI is Simon Bell who is my academic clinical fellow I am supervising. Collaboration with Professor Stephen Wharton, Drs Laura Ferraiuolo and Heather Mortiboys.
  • 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 am co-supervisor of Jenna Littlejohn with Professor Venneri. This project started in October 2014 and is investigating deafness as a risk factor for dementia.

Dr Simon Bell NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre funded Specialist Registrar in Neurology

Dr Ptolemaios Sarrigiannis, Consultant Neurophysiologist


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(Accepted)

23. An interactional profile to assist the differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative and functional memory disorders.Markus Reuber, Daniel Blackburn, Chris Elsey, Sarah Wakefield, Kerry Ann Ardern, Kirsty Harkness, Annalena Venneri, Danielle Jones, Chloe Shaw, Paul Drew. Alzheimer’s Dementia and other Dementias. (Accepted)

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