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PhD in addiction neuroscience: Longitudinal mapping of neuroplasticity in cannabis users using multimodal MRI

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

We are looking for high quality candidates for a PhD position to work with us at School of Behavioral and Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences in Melbourne, Australia at the Australian Catholic University (ACU).
More details are provided below. Please widely forward to possibly interested candidates.

Our project relies on the IMAGEN European consortium, the largest scale longitudinal study to date on 2,000 adolescents with comprehensive neural, cognitive and behavioural data http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/depts/mrc/research/imagen.aspx.

The project aims to elucidate (i) the risk factors that predate the onset of cannabis use, (ii) trajectories of longitudinal change in neural connectivity in adolescent cannabis users vs non-users, (iii) the link between indices of neural connectivity and distinct cannabinoid compounds with neurotoxic and neuroprotective properties.
The large scale of the consortium, the links with world class researchers/institutions and the detailed neural/behavioural/clinical/genetic data provides an excellent platform for a competitive PhD and research output.

The primary project supervisor is Valentina Lorenzetti ( see ResearchGate profile https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Valentina_Lorenzetti & Scholar https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=0UsOn-QAAAAJ&hl=en).

THE PROJECT

Adolescent cannabis use: mapping risk factors and neurodevelopmental trajectories using a large-scale cohort with multimodal imaging, behavioral, cognitive and mental health data

OVERVIEW

The proposed PhD project has 3 key aims:

First, the PhD student will employ advanced computational/statistical methods to estimate which (combination of) factors predate cannabis use onset, using multimodal neuroimaging (functional/structural connectivity), psychosocial, cognitive and genetic data.

Second, the PhD student will map neurodevelopmental trajectories linked to adolescent cannabis use – with a focus on structural/functional connectivity.

Third, the PhD student will evaluate the link between distinct cannabinoid compounds (with neurotoxic/psychotogenic and neuroprotective/anxiolytic properties), with neural (connectivity indices) and psychosocial/cognitive outcomes.

To address these aims, the PhD student will work with data from the IMAGEN http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/depts/mrc/research/imagen.aspx the first multicentre functional and structural genetic-neuroimaging study of a cohort of 2000 +14 year old adolescents followed-up for five years with comprehensive cognitive, behavioural, clinical and neuroimaging data.

You will work with and have access to a multidisciplinary team with high-level expertise in neuroimaging, engineering, data modeling, neuroscience, addiction and mental health and genetics. You will have opportunities of training in the required neuroimaging methods in high-quality national/international research centres.

YOUR PHD TASKS/RESPONSIBILITIES
Your PhD will focus on
·      Identifying multiple factors that predate/confer risk of cannabis use onset using multimodal imaging (functional/structural connectivity), psychosocial, cognitive and mental health data;
·      Mapping longitudinal trajectories of neurodevelopment in adolescent cannabis users and which cannabinoid compounds are linked to aberrant connectivity;
·      Disseminate study results via publication in high quality neuroscientific journals.
·      Complete a PhD thesis.

To address these aims, the PhD student will work with data from a longitudinal multimodal imaging project comprising 90 cannabis users with varying levels of dependence and 30 controls, examined at 3 time-points over a 12 month period. There is scope within the PhD plan to accommodate the students primary interests.

The PhD post will be affiliated with School of Behavioral and Health Sciences, at the ACU. The student will work with and have access to a multidisciplinary team with high-level expertise in neuroimaging, neuroscience, addiction and mental health. There will have opportunities of training in high-level neuroimaging methods in specialised research centres.

Essential requirements:

- Highly motivated, with a strong interest in addiction, psychopathology and neurodevelopment;
- Excellent English written and verbal communications skills;
- Experience with statistical and computer programming skills (e.g., scripting, Matlab, LINUX).

Desirable skills:
- Experience in psychological and cognitive testing;
- Experience in neuroimaging / biostatistics data analysis;
- Experience in writing publications in peer reviewed scientific journals; and
- A numerate background – e.g., a Master’s degree in computer science, mathematics, engineering, medical image analysis or related discipline.

Funding Notes

The PhD student will need to be successful in attaining a Research Training Program Scholarship at ACU View Website (upcoming deadline is on Monday 22 October, followed by a separate deadline early next year) or an Australian Federal Government Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship, or other external funding.

References

Two references may be provided.

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