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Binocular integration of light in amblyopia and autism

Project Description

Position Details
Applications are invited to apply for one Department of Psychology, University of York funded PhD studentship under the supervision of Dr Daniel Baker and Dr Aurelio Bruno. The position starts on September 28th, 2020 and will be fully funded.

The department of Psychology is among the world’s top psychology departments, excelling in both teaching and research. We pride ourselves in providing a supportive and vibrant learning environment, which offers our students every opportunity to meet their personal development goals.

Project Background
The pupillary response to light is a basic physiological reflex that has been extensively studied. The anatomical pathways, involving various subcortical structures, are reasonably well understood. However we know much less about the computational process by which different levels of light in the left and right eyes are used to determine overall pupil diameter. This likely involves binocular interactions, including summation and interocular suppression, similar to those that occur cortically in pattern vision, but in an anatomically segregated pathway. As such, pupillometric measures offer a window onto a basic neural circuit that may be affected in clinical disorders. In amblyopia, the input to one eye is impaired during development, and cortical binocular vision is typically disrupted. However we know much less about how subcortical pathways are affected. Individuals with autism often find bright and flickering lights particularly aversive, and this may partly involve differences in the pupillary light reflex.

For further information and recent publications by the supervisors, please check out: https://www.york.ac.uk/psychology/staff/academicstaff/daniel/#publications-content

PhD position
The PhD candidate will focus on making simultaneous pupillometric and EEG measures of the binocular response to flickering light, in control participants and in adults with a diagnosis of amblyopia or autism.

The key focus of the PhD project is to use this novel combination of methods to investigate how light signals are combined across the two eyes in both subcortical pathways (measured using pupillometry) and in cortical visual pathways (measured using EEG). We will do this for adults with typical visual systems, and adapt existing computational models of binocular combination to understand the results. Next we will investigate how these processes of signal combination and suppression are affected in individuals with disorders of binocular vision (amblyopia) or of sensory processing more generally (autism). The candidate will therefore obtain experience with two distinct experimental techniques, and of working with two clinical populations. There will be opportunities for collaboration with other members of the research group working on a range of projects in visual neuroscience using other methods (including MRI, MEG and psychophysics), and scope for the candidate to devise novel experiments to complement the main study.

The PhD candidate will be responsible for all aspects of the research project, including designing experiments, recruiting participants, collecting and analysing data, and the dissemination of results.


Essential requirements:
- Strong 2.1 BSc (Hons) or equivalent degree in psychology, (cognitive) neuroscience, or a related discipline
- Solid knowledge of statistical methods
- Experience with empirical work in psychology and/or (cognitive) neuroscience
- High motivation and strong interest in the general area of sensory neuroscience
- Strong writing and communication skills

Desirable requirements:
- Experience of programming in R, Matlab, Python, or a related language
- Experience in running experiments using EEG and/or eyetracking
- Experience working with patient groups, e.g. autism, amblyopia
- A commitment to open research practices

Candidates should initially express their interest by contacting Dr Daniel Baker () prior to submitting a full application.

If, after contacting Dr Baker, a candidate wishes to pursue an application, please complete the application process on the University of York website via link below.

The deadline for applications is on January 13th, 2020 with interviews to be held on February 13th, 2020.

Funding Notes

Funding for this position covers: (1) home/EU fees and (2) £15,096 stipend each year in return for 100 hours teaching without additional payment. Overseas students are welcome to apply but must make up the difference in fees between home and overseas rates.

How good is research at University of York in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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