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How does activity-dependent communication between neurons and oligodendrocytes shape central nervous system structure and function?

   College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

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  Dr T Czopka  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Edinburgh United Kingdom Neuroscience

About the Project

The group of Dr Tim Czopka is offering a 3-year funded PhD project, anticipated to begin in September 2021. This project will investigate mechanisms of axon-oligodendrocyte communication and its implications for nervous system structure and function.

Neurons are not alone in the brain but are surrounded by different types of glial cells, one of which are oligodendrocytes. Oligodendrocytes and their committed precursors make up to 10% of all brain cells and are of critical importance in the healthy and diseased brain. Neurons and oligodendrocytes constantly exchange information to shape axonal myelination and organisation of axonal subdomains, and consequently neuronal function.

Our lab aims to understand how oligodendrocytes integrate information from neurons, and in turn affect structure and function of neurons and their axons. We use zebrafish as model organism, due to its amenability for high-resolution optical imaging in intact living animals. Experimental approaches include live cell microscopy of genetically encoded fluorescent reporters and biosensors to visualise intercellular communication between neurons and glia, cellular and (opto)genetic manipulation of cell function, electrophysiology and behavioural analyses.

The successful applicant will use this exhaustive repertoire of methods to investigate mechanisms of oligodendrocyte recruitment and/or axonal and glial plasticity, and their implications for neuronal function.


- Functionally distinct subgroups of oligodendrocyte precursor cells integrate neural activity and execute myelin formation. Marisca et al, Nature Neuroscience, 2020 (PMID: 32066987)
- Evidence for myelin sheath remodelling in the CNS revealed by in vivo imaging. Auer et al, Current Biology, 2018 (PMID: 29429620)
- Individual oligodendrocytes have only a few hours in which to generate new myelin sheaths in vivo. Czopka et al, Developmental Cell (PMID: 23806617)
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