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Neural Engineering


Project Description

Preservation of criticality in hypoxic, dissociated neural networks, via oestrogen triggered synaptic modulation.

Billions of interconnected neurons communicate electrically and form activity patterns in a critical state, finely balanced between order and chaos. Criticality is believed to underlie encoding and transferring of information, so it is a fundamental property enabling information processing in the brain but it can be disrupted when a traumatic event, such as an ischemic stroke, occurs. On the other hand, evidence has shown that specific biomolecules, such as oestrogen, can be neuroprotective, during traumatic events.

In this project, we will examine how oestrogen can salvage neuronal network activity, under neurodegenerative conditions. We will culture in vitro neural networks on multi-electrode arrays (MEA) and chemically treat them to emulate brain pathology. We will then examine how the structure of the neural networks (synaptic connections) and their activity patterns change under different conditions and investigate the neuroprotective effects of oestrogen. The project will conclude with the proposition of a model that links the transition of neural activity between critical and non-critical states and the mechanism of action of oestrogen. Our long term aim is to identify new strategies for the pharmacological treatment of stroke and other neurodegenerative conditions, harnessing oestrogen’s neuroprotective action.

The successful student will receive training in stem cell differentiation, immunocytochemistry, PCR, confocal microscopy and multi-electrode array recordings. They will also be supported by an interdisciplinary team of supervisors, with expertise in neural engineering, cell characterization techniques and modelling of neural network dynamics and oestrogen pathways. The studentship also benefits from an annual allowance that supports conference attendance and external training for the successful candidate.

Eligibility:

• Applicants should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor Degree (but preferably a 1st) or equivalent in biomedical/electrical engineering or strongly related disciplines.
• Due to restrictions on funding this studentship is open to UK/EU students. EU applicants only qualify for a stipend if they have been resident in the UK for the 3 years leading up to the start of the PhD; if they have not, then they only qualify for fees-only support from the EPSRC DTP. The studentship begins on 30th September 2019 and ends on 29th September 2022. The Research Council national minimum doctoral stipend is £15,009 for 2019/20.

How to apply:

To apply for this studentship please submit an application for a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at http://www.reading.ac.uk/graduateschool/prospectivestudents/gs-how-to-apply.aspx

Please make sure to include a CV and a cover letter, explaining how your skillset aligns with this research position.

*Important notes*
1) Please quote the reference ‘GS19-058 ’ in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding Section of your on-line application.
2) When you are prompted to upload a research proposal, please omit this step.

Funding Notes

Further enquiries:

Please note that, where a candidate is successful in being awarded funding, this will be confirmed via a formal studentship award letter; this will be provided separately from any Offer of Admission and will be subject to standard checks for eligibility and other criteria.

For further details please contact Dr. Evangelos Delivopoulos, email: , tel: 0118 3788615.




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