“Shall I go and get something to eat?” At some point in the past few hours, this question may have crossed your mind. Our ability to move towards our goals, and the motivational decisions that regulate these movements, define almost every aspect of our lives. Work over many years has shown that dopamine release is important for learning, motivation, and action. However, changes in dopamine signals can lead to compulsive behaviour; this is exemplified in drug addiction where dopamine release is ‘hijacked’ by drugs of abuse leading to compulsion to seek and take drugs. Recent work has identified multiple distinct populations of dopamine neurons, but the role these populations play in guiding different aspects of behaviour is not yet clear. This knowledge is critical for developing new therapies for neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders, such as Parkinson’s, OCD, and addiction. To tackle these fundamental questions, this project will use state of the art techniques including in vivo recording/imaging, optogenetic manipulation, animal behaviour, neuroanatomy and immunohistochemistry, microscopy, programming, and computational modelling. This project has the potential to redefine our understanding of how decisions and related motivational signals are processed in the brain and will establish a conceptual framework for creating new treatments for neurological diseases.
However, understanding these signals remains a central challenge in neuroscience. Recent evidence has uncovered new connections between two major brain To tackle these fundamental questions, this project will use state of the art in vivo brain imaging, animal behaviour, and anatomical techniques, combined with computational models, to investigate the functional role of connections between the basal ganglia and cerebellum. We will use viral tracing strategies to uncover the identity and nature of the neurons involved and then use imaging techniques and opto/chemogenetic strategies to 6 / 19 investigate their activity and role during different types of behaviour. During the PhD, you will have the opportunity to work in the labs of Drs Paul Dodson, Jon Witton and Rui Ponte Costa as part of a multidisciplinary team spanning the Universities of Bristol and Exeter. Training will be provided in a range of translatable and highly sought-after biosciences skills including in vivo recording, animal behaviour, neuroanatomy and immunohistochemistry, microscopy, data analysis and programming, and computational modelling. In summary, this project has the potential to redefine our understanding of how movement and related motivational signals are processed in the brain and will establish a conceptual framework for creating new treatments for motor and psychiatric diseases.
MSc by Research (MScR) is a 1-year research degree that provides an intensive lab-based training and a preparation for PhD study. You will carry out your studies as part of your research group – like a PhD student does. Towards the end of the year, you write up a thesis on your research and are examined on this. This degree suits students wanting to gain maximum research experience in preparation for PhD applications.
We are keen to recruit a diverse range of students and to ensure our research is open to all. We particularly welcome applications from groups traditionally under-represented in life sciences research. Please check the University webpages for the current tuition fee information. Most MScR projects also require a bench fee. This varies depending on the research and your project supervisor can tell you the bench fee for the project.
How to apply
Use the following link to apply: Start your application | Study at Bristol | University of Bristol
You should select the programme: Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience (MSc by Research) or Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience (PhD) (3yr). Please ensure you upload all supporting documents as per the admissions statement (which applies to both PhD and MScR programmes): PhD Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience | Study at Bristol | University of Bristol
Clearly indicate the supervisor name and project title in the relevant section of the application form.
The system will not allow you to submit your application without uploading a document to the research statement section. Where this is an optional requirement, please upload a blank Word document which is headed “No research statement required”.
Applications are accepted all year round. However, the preferred entry points for study are September / January / April / July.