In addition to supporting our conscious perception of the world around us, light and visual stimuli exert wide ranging effects on animal physiology and behaviour via hard-wired ‘reflexes’ which range from simple effects of light on sleep, alertness and neuroendocrine function to the avoidance of rapidly approaching objects. At present the neural circuitry that controls these reflexes is poorly understood.
We have recently discovered a new visual pathway in the lateral hypothalamus which includes cells that respond to both simple visual stimuli (e.g. changes in light levels) as well as neurons that selectively respond to more complicated visual stimuli such as moving objects. Since neurons in this region of the hypothalamus project to brain nuclei controlling defensive behaviour, arousal and autonomic function, we hypothesis that this hypothalamic visual pathway is specifically optimised to coordinate behavioural and physiological responses to the environment.
Under the guidance of the supervisory team, here the successful applicant will employ advanced electrophysiological and neuroanatomical approaches to define the organisation and functions of this new visual pathway. They will then use whole animal behavioural and physiological monitoring, alongside sophisticated new genetic tools (opto-/chemogenetics), to confirm the roles of this novel pathway in visual reflexes. Accordingly, this project represents a fantastic opportunity to contribute to a major advance in our understanding of visual function, suitable for motivated applicants with a degree in an appropriate branch of life sciences.
Training/techniques to be provided:
This project employs an interdisciplinary approach that exploits the latest technological advances, encompassing in vivo electrophysiological recording, neuroanatomical labelling, opto- and chemogenetic manipulation and whole animal physiological monitoring. Thus, the candidate will gain extensive experience with:
i) Multi-electrode recording techniques, the generation of complex visual stimuli and sophisticated analysis approaches for large data sets- together these will allow the successful applicant to comprehensively define the sensory capabilities of large populations of neurons in individual animals
ii) State-of-the-art virally delivered genetic manipulations- these will allow for selective labelling and manipulation of specific neurons using light or otherwise inert chemical compounds
iii) Surgical procedures, telemetry-based physiological monitoring and behavioural assays which, in conjunction with the above, will confirm the link between activity of specific neurons and integrated physiological/behavioural responses.
iv) Coding (Matlab/labview/Python) and basic electronics
Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area/subject. Candidates with previous laboratory experience, particularly in cell culture and molecular biology, are particularly encouraged to apply.
How To Apply
For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/research/apply/). Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select PhD Genetics
For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
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 https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/research/apply/equality-diversity-inclusion/”
For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit www.internationalphd.manchester.ac.uk