The research project is based on recent functional studies that conclusively demonstrated the capacity of transcranial low-intensity ultrasound stimulation to reversibly activate or suppress neural activity with high spatial specificity in vivo. However, the signalling pathways, molecular and cellular mechanisms that underly ultrasound stimulation-induced long-term changes in synaptic communication and neuronal circuit activity remain poorly understood. In this project we aim to investigate how different patterns of ultrasound stimulation alters key components of synaptic transmission using molecular, neurochemical, cell biological, pharmacological, and electrophysiological approaches using established in vitro and in vivo model systems. The longer-term goal of this research is to characterise, validate and apply specifically targeted extracranial ultrasound stimulation to restore or improve brain function in various neurological and psychiatric disorders (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder etc).
The PhD project will include extensive use of state-of-the-art cellular and molecular research approaches, including the functional studies and confocal microscopic imaging of cell cultures and tissue samples. The project will be jointly supervised by Dr Daniel Whitcomb (Senior Lecturer in Translational Neuroscience, Translational Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, Faculty of Health Sciences) and Prof. Elek Molnar (Professor of Neuroscience, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, Faculty of Health Sciences).