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EASTBIO Mastering movement: structure and function of the ‘little brain’

   School of Psychology

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  Dr Maarten Zwart  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The cerebellum, or ‘little brain’, is essential for our ability to learn new skills. By integrating information from the spinal cord and the senses to see how well each movement is executed, it can implement changes if the movement does not match the desired result. Its importance to the coordination, timing and precision of our movements can be seen by the many motor deficits in patients with cerebellar pathologies, including poor balance, tremors, and an inability to perform rapid movements.

Crucial to the motor learning process is the detection of a mismatch between the intended and actual movement by the inferior olivary nucleus (IO), which changes how the Purkinje neurons in the cerebellum operate. Despite its central importance to motor learning, it is unclear how the IO encodes this error signal.

A collaboration with various members of the lab, this project aims to understand this process by probing the activity and connectivity of the larval zebrafish IO, an excellent model for IO function across the vertebrate phylum because of its tractability. We will use a combination of the latest tools in neural circuit reconstruction by connectomics, activity imaging, optogenetics, and behavioural analyses using lab-generated AI tools.

The project will provide an excellent training opportunity, preparing you for a career in the scientific and technology sectors. You'll work on a fundamental process with potential medical applications, and gain skills in handling big data and using machine learning.

We are committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in science. We welcome applications from students from all backgrounds, and in particular from individuals from groups in the UK underrepresented in STEM research.


Application instructions can be found on the EASTBIO website-

1)     Download and complete the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey.

2)     Download and complete the EASTBIO Application Form.

3)     Submit an application to St Andrews University through the Online Application Portal

Your online application must include the following documents:

-         Completed EASTBIO application form

-         2 References (to be completed on the EASTBIO Reference Form, also found on the EASTBIO website)

-         Academic Qualifications

-         English Language Qualification (if applicable)

Unfortunately due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications. Please make sure your application is complete by 27th November 2023


Queries on the project can be directed to the project supervisor.

Queries on the application process can be directed to Rachel Horn at [Email Address Removed]

UKRI eligibility guidance: Terms and Conditions: View Website International/EU: View Website

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership.
This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend at UKRI standard rate and UK level tuition fees. The University of St Andrews will cover the Home-International fee difference.
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