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  Neuronal coupling across spatiotemporal scales and dimensions of cortical population activity

   Department of Psychology

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  Dr Michael Okun  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The human cortex is the most complex known system. It is responsible for a vast range of sensorimotor, decision making, and other cognitive abilities of humans and other mammals. The activity of cortical neuronal networks is organised across multiple spatiotemporal scales, and remains poorly understood. Our laboratory is particularly interested in the relationship between the activity of an individual neuron and of the larger networks within which the neuron is embedded (Lewis, 2015). For example, we have recently compared the coupling between neurons and their local network across an extensive range of timescales, finding major timescale-dependent distinctions, suggestive of different mechanisms regulating cortical activity on different timescales (Okun et al., 2019).

We rely on recordings using next-generation high-density silicon probes for data collection (Steinmetz et al., 2021) and advanced computational methods for their analysis. We are particularly interested in dynamics of cortical neuronal populations on infraslow timescales (tens of seconds and minutes) and under the influence of specific classes of psychoactive drugs (psychedelics and anaesthetics).

There are several experimental and computational projects available in this research area. Purely computational projects will rely on data we are collecting in the laboratory as part of ongoing projects, as well as on publicly available datasets. Such computational projects are particularly suitable for students with a background in exact sciences or computer science and programming.

Essential: at least a 2:1 (or equivalent) undergraduate degree in neuroscience or related subject or in exact sciences (e.g., mathematics, physics, computer science, data science), good written and oral communication skills. MSc level qualification or commensurate relevant research methods experience,programming experience.

Biological Sciences (4) Computer Science (8) Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

Self funded or externally sponsored students only. Intakes are usually October and March annually.
NB The University has some scholarships under competition each year. More details can be found -


Lewis S (2015) Computational neuroscience: Population coupling. Nat Rev Neurosci 16:313–313.
Okun M, Steinmetz NA, Lak A, Dervinis M, Harris KD (2019) Distinct Structure of Cortical Population Activity on Fast and Infraslow Timescales. Cereb Cortex 29:2196–2210.
Steinmetz NA et al. (2021) Neuropixels 2.0: A miniaturized high-density probe for stable, long-term brain recordings. Science 372

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