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  Dissecting behaviourally relevant feedback microcircuits in the brain


   Blizard Institute

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  Prof Abhishek Banerjee  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Interactions between distinct neural circuits in the brain help in sensory-guided perceptual decisions. We have recently reported that task/context-switching behaviour is dependent upon specific populations of neurons in the frontal cortex which encode and convey rule-related information (Banerjee et al. Nature, 2020; Curr Opin Behav Sciences 2021). However, the cellular mechanisms behind the dynamic interactions that mediate fast updating of stimulus–reward contingencies remain unclear. It is not understood how specific cell types and mechanisms within these circuits are recruited to retain and relay information relevant to behaviour. Recent developments in neurotechnological tools allow us to study and dissect these physiological mechanisms at the level of specific neuronal populations and synapses (Banerjee et al., PNAS 2016).

The Ph.D. studentship will address these questions using a range of experimental and theoretical approaches. The project will use mice performing specific behavioural tasks and characterise learning-mediated plastic changes in relevant synapses in the brain, specifically in the sensory cortices and distinct subdivisions of the prefrontal cortex. The student will use in vitro electrophysiological and anatomical techniques to study neuronal connectivity and functional responses characterising synaptic changes in plasticity during specific stages of flexible behaviour.  

This exciting project is especially suited for candidates with a strong background in Physics/Neuroscience interested in learning about synapse/circuit/systems neuroscience. The project is innovative, and the applicant should have a strong motivation to learn patch-clamp slice electrophysiology experiments. Having a Home Office Personal License (PIL) is a plus. Some experience in programming in LabVIEW and Python is desired. Students will join a vibrant lab and contribute to an ongoing project with a clear endpoint.

Experiments will be carried out in Oxford as well as in close collaboration with the Blizard Institute and the Faculty of Medicine at Queen Mary University of London. There will be further possibilities for interactions with other labs both at Oxford and Queen Mary. Both institutions offer excellent training opportunities for the students. Student training in this project will involve a highly synergistic UK academic, neurological, and industry team, complemented by key collaborators at MIT (USA) and ETH-Zürich (Switzerland), offering innovative training in cellular, circuit, and computational neuroscience.    

Please send informal enquiries to Prof. Banerjee at [Email Address Removed] or [Email Address Removed], with a brief statement and a CV if you are interested.

Website: https://www.adaptive-decisions.com/

X: @abhii_mit

Shortlisting and interviews will take place within 2-3 weeks after the deadline for submission of applications. The studentship is available immediately and candidates should be available to start in July 2024 or shortly thereafter. 

Apply Here: IPP login screen (qmul.ac.uk)


Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

Funded PhD Project (UK and EU Students Only)
This is a three-year studentship and comes with a tax-free stipend at the UKRI level. UK/EU student tuition fees will be covered. Funding for travel, conference attendance and consumables may be available. International students are required to provide evidence of their proficiency in English language skills.

References

1. Banerjee A†, Parente G, Teutsch J, Lewis C, Voigt FF and Helmchen F (2020) Value-guided remapping of sensory cortex by lateral orbitofrontal cortex. Nature 585:245-250. †Corresponding author; News & Views: Li et al. 2021 6:889-891 Neuroscience Bulletin. This paper was awarded ‘Best Paper of the Year award 2020’, Society for Neuroeconomics.
2. Banerjee A†, Rikhye RV, and Marblestone A (2021) Reinforcement-driven learning in the neocortex: Emerging computational concepts. Current Opinion in Behavioural Sciences. 38:133–140. Editors: Angela Langdon and Geoff Schoenbaum. †Corresponding author.
3. Banerjee A, Rikhye RV, Breton-Provencher V, Tang X, Li C, Li K, Runyan C, Fu Z, Jaenisch R, and Sur M (2016) Jointly reduced inhibition and excitation underlies circuit-wide changes in cortical processing in Rett Syndrome. PNAS 113(46):E7287-E7296.
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