How experience shapes the brain: from experience, to molecules, cells, circuits and behaviour.


   School of Biosciences

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  Prof Alicia Hidalgo  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

How experience shapes the brain: from experience, to molecules, cells, circuits and behaviour

The aim of the project is to discover how experience shapes the brain and test candidate molecular mechanisms underlying structural brain plasticity and degeneration. We will address questions such as: how does experience shape the brain, how does it change as we go through life, why does it degenerate as we age, why is isolation bad, why is exercise good for the brain? We suspect a molecular switch can drive between structural brain plasticity and degeneration, and we will test candidate genes to discover the mechanism.

The human brain is plastic: it changes as we learn, enabling adaptation and memory, and then it degenerates as we age. In fact, the healthy brain is kept in balance between structural plasticity and homeostasis, resulting in normal behaviour. Structural plasticity enables change as we learn and adapt to environmental change, encoding memory. Structural homeostasis constrains the brain’s ability to change, thus maintaining neural circuits stable. Exercise and learning increase structural plasticity, sleep promotes homeostasis, whilst brain diseases are linked to loss of this balance, such as brain tumours (e.g. gliomas), neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), neuro-inflammation and psychiatric disorders (e.g. depression). Conversely, the homeostatic mechanisms that keep the brain stable also slow down learning and prevent the brain from recovering in injury and disease. The cellular processes underlying structural CNS change include neurogenesis and gliogenesis, cell death and cell loss, changes in cell shape (generation or loss or axons, dendrites, glial projections), synapse formation and loss, altogether leading to neural circuit modification and modification of behaviour. We will investigate how experience, life stressors, modify cellular processes and circuits and how this modifies behaviour. The molecular mechanisms underlying structural brain change are scarcely known. Discovering them will help answer how the brain works and how we can maintain brain health and treat brain disease (neurodegenerative and psychiatric).

Methods 

We will use the fruit-fly Drosophila as a model organism, combining a wide range of techniques including: genetics, molecular cell biology including CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology and transgenesis, microscopy, including laser scanning confocal microscopy and calcium imaging in time-lapse, computational imaging approaches for analysis of images and movies, stimulating neuronal function with opto- and thermo-genetics in vivo, and recording and analysing fruit-fly behaviour.

  1. Keywords: Drosophila, neuroscience, brain plasticity, neurodegeneration, ageing, behaviour

MIBTP FUNDED PROJECT

You can apply for funding under the MIBTP doctoral training programme of the BBSRC available via the School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, for both UK and international applicants.

FIND OUT MORE HERE: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/mibtp/index.aspx

Our project is within: "Understanding the rules of life" and "Integrated understanding of health".

APPLY HERE: 

https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/mibtp/index.aspx

DEADLINE 4 JANUARY 2024

OTHER FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

You can also apply with other sources of funding. For example, you could apply for a scholarship from your own country. 

PLEASE CONTACT ME at [Email Address Removed] if you are interested in doing your PhD with me, regardless of funding.

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

MIBTP FUNDED PROJECT
You can apply for funding under the MIBTP doctoral training programme of the BBSRC available via the School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, for both UK and international applicants. DEADLINE FOR MIBTP STUDENTSHIPS IS 4 JANUARY 2024
FIND OUT MORE HERE: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/mibtp/index.aspx
Our project is within: "Understanding the rules of life" and "Integrated understanding of health".
APPLY HERE:
https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/mibtp/index.aspx
OTHER FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES
You can also apply with other sources of funding. For example, you could apply for a scholarship from your own country.
PLEASE CONTACT ME at [Email Address Removed] if you are interested in doing your PhD with me, regardless of funding.

References

Visit our lab website: https://more.bham.ac.uk/hidalgo/
• Sun et al (2023) Circuit structural plasticity by a neurotrophin with a Toll modifies behaviour. bioRxiv doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.01.04.522695
Guiyi Li and Alicia Hidalgo (2021) The Toll route to structural brain plasticity. Frontiers in Physiology. Frontiers in Physiology DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2021.679766
• Li G, Forero MG, Wentzell JS, Durmus I, Wolf R, Anthoney NC, Parker M, Jiang R, Hasenauer J, Strausfeld NJ, Heisenberg M, Hidalgo A (2020) A Toll-receptor map underlies structural brain plasticity eLife, 9: e52743 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.52743
o eLife Digest article 17 March 2020 dedicated to our paper: “How experience shapes the brain”
https://elifesciences.org/digests/52743/how-experience-shapes-the-brain

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