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(BBSRC DTP) Naturalistic and translational decision making (DM) assays for humans and rodents

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Dr P Warren, Dr Riccardo Storchi  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Decision making is a crucial aspect of everyday life for all animals. From lower-level perceptual and perceptuo-motor guided decisions about whether and when to cross a road (humans) or choosing an escape or foraging path (animals) to higher-level decisions about selecting a suitable habitat (animals) or buying a house (humans).  

While some decisions are only relevant for humans (e.g. buying a house) many others are common to different mammalian species (e.g. choosing on the best course of action to avoid immediate threats or navigate an unfamiliar environment). Such decisions are likely to be similarly affected by internal states such as anxiety and stress and  personality traits such as cognitive flexibility and tendency towards addiction.   

Understanding human DM and, in particular, how factors such as stress and/or clinical disorders might impact upon DM is critical. To fully understand mechanisms of DM in human requires us to consider both behaviour and how this links to the neuronal substrates that drive this behaviour. Revealing the detailed neuronal substrate can only be achieved in experimental animals in which recording and manipulation of specific neuronal circuitry can be performed. A key challenge then is to establish appropriate behavioural assays that can be reliably translated between humans and rodents. 

In this project we will develop a range of principled decision-making tasks that are comparable for animals and humans. Human tasks will take advantage of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies available in the Virtual Reality Research (VR2) Facility at the University of Manchester ( VR enables us to place the human in a virtual real-world DM tasks while retaining control of key experimental variables. In addition in VR it is possible to impose realistic stressors on the human to mimic equivalent tasks in rodents. Rodent tasks will be performed in real physical environments adapted to match parameters of the human tasks. We anticipate that the findings from this project will be important for laying down a testbed of paradigms for future investigation of neural substrates of DM and eventually developing neural-based models of altered decision making (e.g. in addiction) to underpin novel treatments.


Applicants must have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science, engineering or technology.  

Before you Apply 

Applicants must make direct contact with preferred supervisors before applying. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to meet with potential supervisors, prior to submitting a formal online application.  

How To Apply 

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

Your application form must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents by the advertised deadlines. Without all the required documents submitted at the time of application, your application will not be processed and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered. If you have any queries regarding making an application please contact our admissions team [Email Address Removed]  

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion  

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

Funding Notes

Studentship funding is for 4 years. This scheme is open to both the UK and international applicants. We are only able to offer a limited number of studentships to applicants outside the UK. Therefore, full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.
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