University of Oxford Featured PhD Programmes
Birkbeck, University of London Featured PhD Programmes
University of Oxford Featured PhD Programmes

Parallel processing by neurons in the thalamocortical pathway

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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Prof Rasmus Petersen Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Each of our brains contains more neurons than there are people on the planet. Everything that we experience or do involves large groups of neurons operating in concert. However, although we now know a tremendous amount about the biology of single neurons, we still know surprisingly little about how groups of neurons work together.

The Petersen lab has state-of-the-art equipment that enables the activity of many neurons to be recorded at the same time, using silicon-based polytrodes. The lab also has a strong track record in using advanced computational methods for analysing and modelling such data. The aim of this project is to use this technology to record simultaneously from as many neurons as possible from the somatosensory thalamo-cortical pathway.

This approach will lead to important insights into the critical question of how the collective activity of neurons achieves useful information processing. The project is inter-disciplinary and the successful student will be working as part of a cross-disciplinary team, incorporating skills in both biological experimentation and computer/mathematical modelling. There is the opportunity for the student, depending on their interests, to train in experimental methods, theoretical methods or both. The project could therefore suit applicants from either a biomedical or physical sciences background.

Training/techniques to be provided:
Training will be provided in in vivo measurement of neuronal activity and in computational techniques for analysis of the data.

Entry Requirements:
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 experience in Neuroscience or with an interest in Neuroscience are encouraged to apply.

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

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website ( For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


Petersen R.S., Panzeri S., Diamond M.E. (2001) Population coding of stimulus location in rat somatosensory cortex. Neuron 32:503-514.

Petersen R.S., Brambilla M., Bale M.R., Alenda A., Panzeri S., Montemurro M.A., Maravall M. (2008) Diverse and temporally precise kinetic feature selectivity in the VPm thalamic nucleus. Neuron 60: 890-903.
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