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Characterising receptive fields of astrocytes in auditory cortex

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Kozlov
    Dr Simon Schultz
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

(4 year MRes + PhD studentship)

This project is one of 11 studentships on offer in the Imperial College EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Neurotechnology for Life and Health

Supervisors: Andrei Kozlov (Bioengineering), Simon Schultz (Bioengineering), Claudia Clopath (Bioengineering)

About half of the cells in the brain are glial cells. They are involved in virtually every normal and pathological process in the CNS. It is known that astrocytes (a major type of glial cells) can release classical neurotransmitters and modulate the excitability of neuronal ensembles. This knowledge, however, is based almost entirely on work performed either in culture or in brain slices.

Therefore, one of the most basic yet essential open questions about neuro-glial circuits, and about cortical computation more generally, is the following: How do astrocytes respond to natural sensory stimuli in awake behaving animals? This question has not been investigated for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is conceptual: it was not known until recently that astrocytes can respond to sensory stimuli in vivo with a response selectivity as sharp as that of neighboring neurons. It was believed that only neurons had receptive fields.

The other reason is technical and has to do with engineering. To test a hypothesis that astrocytes have tuned receptive fields requires development of new engineering tools. These tools are optical to measure astrocytic activity in vivo, and computational to determine the receptive fields, which is particularly difficult with complex natural stimuli.

This project combines powerful imaging and novel computational methods to test a hypothesis that astrocytes in auditory cortex respond selectively to natural auditory stimuli. We want to understand how the “glial code” resembles the neuronal code and how it differs from it and, most importantly, how they work together to support cortical computation.

The CDT programme is not a standard PhD programme. Throughout the 4 years, there is considerable emphasis upon multidisciplinary and transferable skills, through centre activities beyond the individual research project. The programme cannot be taken without the first (MRes Neurotechnology) year, as it is an integral part of the overall programme.

Applicants should have (or expect to obtain) a first or upper second class degree (or non-UK equivalent) in an engineering or physical science subject. Students with a biological and medical sciences background may be considered, but candidates must have sufficient quantitative skills to thrive in the programme. You should be looking for a challenging, multi-disciplinary PhD at the interface of neuroscience and engineering.

To apply online, visit

If you have questions or would like further information about the project, we encourage you to contact the supervisors directly before making your formal application.

Funding Notes

Studentships pay UK/EU tuition fees, stipend and a generous consumables and travel fund for the duration of the programme (one year of MRes and 3 years of PhD).

Places are open to UK and EU applicants only.

How good is research at Imperial College London in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.50

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

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