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(BBSRC DTP) Is “sensory cortex” just sensory? Investigation by large-scale electrophysiology

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

About the Project

A fundamental question in sensory neuroscience is what information sensory neurons convey during natural behaviour (‘sensory coding’). Neuroscience textbooks describe in detail how the cortex is parcelled up into ‘sensory’ and ‘motor’ regions. However, new studies have challenged this dogma by showing that the activity of neurons in areas of the cerebral cortex classically considered to be purely sensory actually depend on an animal’s motor state (eg running speed or whisker movement). The full extent and significance of these findings remains, however, unclear.

The aim of this project is to use exciting new methods (large-scale electrophysiological recording, behaviour imaging, machine learning) to investigate this general issue. Specifically, we will test between competing hypotheses for how motor state influences the activity of neurons in sensory cortex. This will be done by recording the activity of neurons in the somatosensory cortex using state-of-the-art Neuropixels probes.

This project will suit motivated students with a passion for neuroscience. Students might come either a biology/neuroscience background or from a physical sciences background. The successful student will have the opportunity to investigate this question using in vivo electrophysiology and behavioural analysis. They will also have the chance to learn to analyse the data by means of machine learning methods.

Entry Requirements:
Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

UK applicants interested in this project should make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. International applicants (including EU nationals) must ensure they meet the academic eligibility criteria (including English Language) as outlined before contacting potential supervisors to express an interest in their project. Eligibility can be checked via the University Country Specific information page (

If your country is not listed you must contact the Doctoral Academy Admissions Team providing a detailed CV (to include academic qualifications – stating degree classification(s) and dates awarded) and relevant transcripts.

Following the review of your qualifications and with support from potential supervisor(s), you will be informed whether you can submit a formal online application.

To be considered for this project you MUST submit a formal online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website

Funding Notes

Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend only. The University of Manchester aims to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of scholarships that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website View Website

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