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(ESPRC DTP) Improving the NMR visibility of graphene-based electrodes for multi-modal MRI and electrophysiology studies of brain activity

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Dr B Dickie, Dr Robert Wykes, Prof Stuart Allan  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Manchester United Kingdom Biomedical Engineering Biophysics Data Analysis Neuroscience Mathematics Physics

About the Project

Deep brain electrodes have been used for many years to study brain activity in conditions such as epilepsy, and have recently been utilised in ‘stimulating mode’ to treat brain disorders such as Parkinson’s1 . However, precise placement of electrodes in deep brain structures is difficult, and existing designs suffer from degradation and movement after implantation. Furthermore, existing probes create large artefacts on brain MRI, confounding precise assessment of probe location, and therefore brain activity changes, in relation to MRI visible brain pathologies. Graphene based probes offer a promising alterative as they have increased biocompatibility, can adjust and flex to the motions of the brain, and are MRI compatible2 . However, under most circumstances, these probes are MRI ‘invisible’, and while this means the probes do not create image artefacts (i.e. signal voids), it is currently not possible to precisely detect probe location within the brain. This project will aim to improve the visibility of graphene-based probes by doping probes with small amounts of paramagnetic contrast agents, or materials with long T2. The ability of more novel MRI acquisition methods such as zeroTE imaging for imaging graphene probes will be assessed. When the probe can be robustly detected, studies into the spatial accuracy and precision of probe position measurements will be investigated in phantoms. Finally, the developed technology will be applied to study how brain pathologies such as stroke and/or brain tumours affect the activity of surrounding brain tissues. In particular, our group is interested in using this technology to study the relationship between vascular permeability (as measured using MRI) and onset of epilepsy post stroke (as measured using deep brain electrodes). The ideal candidate for this project will hold a first class physics or engineering degree, with an interest in neurological diseases. The successful student will gain training in neuroimaging, neuroscience, electrophysiology, and in-vivo skills, and will join our highly multidisciplinary team of scientists and PhD students working on neuroimaging, electrophysiology, and stroke research in Manchester.

Entry Requirements:

Applications are invited from UK nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

To be considered for this project you MUST submit a formal online application form. For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

Funding Notes

Funding Notes
EPSRC DTP studentship with funding for a duration of 3.5 years to commence in September 2021. The studentship covers UK tuition fees and an annual minimum stipend £15,609 per annum. Due to funding restrictions, the studentship is open to UK applicants only.
Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website


. Perlmutter, Joel S., and Jonathan W. Mink. "Deep brain stimulation." Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 29 (2006): 229-257. 2. Park, DongWook, et al. "Graphene-based carbon-layered electrode array technology for neural imaging and optogenetic
applications." Nature communications 5.1 (2014): 1-11.
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