Ewch i’r prif gynnwys
Bernard Moxham

Professor Bernard Moxham

Professor / Sêr Cymru Research Chair in Neurobiology

Ysgol y Biowyddorau


Research overview

I am an anatomist interested in studying craniofacial biology. Specifically, I focus on the structure, function and pathophysiology of the connective tissues in and around the mouth and on craniofacial development and congenital abnormalities. As Head of Teaching at the Cardiff School of Biosciences, I have a profound interest in pedagogic research relating to the biomedical sciences.



The role of mesenchymes in craniofacial development

Abnormal development of the mesenchymes in palatal shelves is responsible for the formation of palatal clefts, one of the most common human congenital abnormalities. Past research in our laboratory has highlighted the importance of palatal shelf ECM in the generation of turgor pressure to facilitate palatal shelf elevation. Present work is characterising the biochemical and ultrastructural features of this mesenchyme and the changes that take place in experimentally-induced clefts.  Research is also being undertaken on the development of the upper lip and the mechanisms responsible for cleft lip formation.  Most recently, and in collaboration with colleagues at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), we have been studying the effects of teratogens on craniofacial and brain development.  We have shown that folic acid can "rescue" even major craniofacial abnormalities produced by teratogens. We are also investigating those parental socio-biological features that "predispose" to the development of craniofacial congenital abnormalities. The work on craniofacial development was awarded the Enrique Martinez Moreno prize. I am preparing a monograph with international colleagues concerned with normal and abnormal craniofacial development and therapies.

The relationships between structure, function, composition and pathology of periodontal connective tissues

The periodontal ligament attaches the tooth to the jaw and is responsible for resisting masticatory loads and for providing the forces of eruption. Previous research has characterised the structural, ultrastructural, biochemical, and biomechanical properties of the periodontal ligament. My research has also resolved problems regarding the mechanisms responsible for tooth eruption and for the way in which the periodontal ligament resists masticatory loads (the tooth support mechanism). Our research has also shown that, unusually, the periodontal ligament maintains foetal/mesenchymal characteristics; this finding has led to the isolation of embryonic stem cells in and around the tooth. Clinically, the periodontal ligament is affected by inflammatory periodontal disease and provides the initial reactions to the imposition of orthodontic loads. Present research is concerned with the biochemistry of the tissue in health and disease and, in particular, we are studying the effects of ageing.

Pedagogic research in the biomedical sciences

I founded a Trans-European pedagogic research group for the anatomical sciences.  Presently, we are comparing the legal procedures operating for body bequests across the EU, investigating the attitudes of medical and dental students to the clinical relevance of the biomedical sciences, assessing the meaning of research-led teaching in higher education, determining the mathematical and literary skills possessed by science, medical and dental students when first they enter university, and investigating the relationships between course aims/learning outcomes and teaching methods employed for topographical anatomy.  Further work is investigating the knowledge possessed by science, medical and dental students about the philosophy of science and of ethical frameworks, the understanding of clinical medicine possessed by newly recruited medical students, and how personality differences relate to attitudes and learning styles for students in the health professions and in biosciences.  I have edited an educational issue of the European Journal of Anatomy following educational symposia held at the joint meeting of the British and Spanish Anatomical Societies at Madrid (August 2006) and have been invited by the Anatomical Society to organise a major conference on biomedical education at Cardiff in December 2011. I am planning the writing of a monograph on biomedical education.

In 2005, I was awarded the "Enrique Martinez Moreno Prize" by the Sociedad Anatomica Espanola for my research into craniofacial development. In 2009, I was given Honorary membership of the Turkish Society of Anatomy and Clinical Anatomy for "worldwide contributions to teaching anatomy".


I initially read Dentistry at the University of Bristol, completing my clinical studies in 1973. During this period I undertook an intercalated Hons BSc degree in Anatomy, obtaining a 1st class Hons degree in 1969). Deciding on an academic career, I took up an appointment as demonstrator in the Anatomy department at Bristol, completing my PhD there in 1978. I undertook postgraduate research at the Department of Physiology, Göteborg University, Sweden (under the direction of Professor B. Folkow). Subsequently, I was promoted to lecturer and senior lecturer before being appointed as Professor and Head of Anatomy at Cardiff in 1990. I became Deputy Director of the Cardiff School of Biosciences and Head of Teaching in Biosciences as a result of the merger of 2 major biology schools at Cardiff in 1998. As Head of Teaching, I oversaw the achievement of "excellent" awards for all courses (science, medical, dental) in the TQAs and recent NSS results have also signalled teaching excellence.

My total number of publications exceeds 315 and includes16 textbooks and 2 research monographs.

Externally, I am/have been a Visiting Professor at the University of Otago (New Zealand), the University of Thessaloniki (Greece), the New University of Lisbon (Portugal) and at St George's University (Grenada). Over the previous 15 years, I have been either an external examiner or an advisor/moderator at over 20 universities worldwide. I was a panellist for 2001 U.K. Research Assessment Exercise (Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology and Preclinical sciences Panel). I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

For Learned Societies, I have been President of the European Federation for Experimental Morphology and President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland. I am currently Educational Officer for the Anatomical Society  and President of the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists. I am also Founder and President of the Trans-European Pedagogic Research Group for Anatomy (sponsored by EFEM).

For scientific journals, I am presently Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Anatomy and am a member of the editorial board of ANATOMY, International Journal of Experimental and Clinical Anatomy.  I was a member of the editorial board of Medical Humanities. I was the founder of the journal Aging Cell and was a member of its management board.

In addition to my scientific interests, I have a major involvement in medical humanities and the arts.  With the artist Nick Cudworth, I have collaborated on the production of a series of Anatomical drawings.  The project was financed by an Arts Council grant.  With Ian Breakwell, I co-ordinated a project called "The Dance of Death" which received financial backing from the Wellcome Trust (Sci-Art grants).  The project re-examined the socio-cultural, psychological and medico-ethical issues relating to mortality.  An extensive catalogue (including essays by myself and Ian Breakwell) was produced.  I have worked with Karen Ingham on the development of the Wellcome Trust and AHRC supported "Anatomy Lessons" project that led to a series of large scale photo-works, video installations and public talks and to the publication of a well-illustrated book. We have also undertaken a project relating art, neuroscience (memory) and botany entitled "Seeds of Memory"that received AHRC funding. Recently, I was awarded a Leverhulme Grant to work with the artist Anne-Mie Melis on a project relating to plant sciences. I contributed to the Wellcome Trust's exhibition "New Anatomists" (including an essay in the exhibition catalogue) and have delivered lectures on the scientific achievements of Leonardo da Vinci ("Da Vinci - Artist, Scientist, Inventor and Rogue"). I am currently writing a book concerned with the relationship between medicine and the arts. I have also organised exhibitions on the theme of "Images to accompany James Joyce's Ulysses" and have published 20 books related to this aspect. I organise seminars on the history of medicine and on art and medicine.