A central view in neuroscience is that brain neurons produce the commands to start, stop and change movements, while neurons in the spinal cord carry them out. Defects in these pathways underlie common neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy.
However, in previous work we have shown that the brain can also directly affect how movements are performed, giving it precise control over the very fine details of behaviour. This project will follow up these important results by combining the latest technologies with the unrivalled set of genetic tools of the fruit fly Drosophila. This insect is an ideal model organism to address this question: it has an interesting set of behaviours, but it has a relatively small number of neurons, each uniquely identifiable and amenable to both activity imaging and manipulations. We and others are collaborating on completing a full wiring diagram of its nervous system, allowing us to see how each neuron within the brain is connected. Using a combination of these state-of-the-art techniques including neural activity imaging using a lightsheet microscope, voltage imaging, connectomics, and optogenetics, we will determine which brain neurons are involved in the direction of movements, and see how they are connected to the cells that make muscles contract. The student will also use custom Python code for data analysis, for which training will be provided. This project will also involve developing and/or testing open access software for acquiring and synchronizing data streams in neuroscience (exact extent dependent on previous programming experience of applicant)
Supervised by two neuroscientists with complementary expertise in imaging and electrophysiology, the project will provide an excellent training opportunity for the postgraduate student, preparing them for a career in the scientific and technology sectors.
This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership http://www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk/how-apply-0. This opportunity is only open to UK nationals (or EU students who have been resident in the UK for 3+ years immediately prior to the programme start date) due to restrictions imposed by the funding body.
Apply by 5.00 pm on 5 January 2020 following the instructions on how to apply at: http://www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk/how-apply-0
Informal inquiries to the primary supervisor are very strongly encouraged.