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PhD position at the interface of biological and artificial neural networks: The role of neuromodulatory systems in continual learning

   Biosciences Institute

   Saturday, April 01, 2023  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Biological neural networks continually learn, interact and adapt their function to diverse and ever-changing environmental and behavioral demands. Neuromodulators, including dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, noradrenaline and histamine, through their diffuse release, regulate the function of biological neural networks to catalyze learning and boost adaptation to rapidly changing contexts. Although artificial neural networks (ANNs) have demonstrated their effectiveness in solving a spectrum of real-world tasks ranging from pattern recognition to autonomous driving vehicles, they remain ineffective in continual learning to execute simultaneous tasks and are prone to “catastrophic forgetting”, contrary to their biological analogues. 

This PhD thesis will explore how neuromodulators impact the cellular and synaptic assembly of biological neural networks and implement principles in ANNs to enhance their learning capabilities towards overcoming catastrophic forgetting. The project will develop a computational framework to synthesize our understanding of neural hardware and use that to bridge the knowledge gap between biological neural networks and ANNs.

Applications are particularly invited from women and BAME candidates who are under-represented in postgraduate research at our institution.

Number Of Awards


Start Date


Award Duration

The funding covers a three-year PhD. 


Newcastle University


Dr Srikanth Ramaswamy

Eligibility Criteria

We are looking for recent graduates with an academic background in any of the relevant disciplines who meet the following Essential Requirements 

  • Bachelor’s or Master’s degree (already in possession or expected to be obtained by the start date of the project) in Computing, Mathematics, Statistics, Bioinformatics, Engineering, Neuroscience or other cognate disciplines.
  • Applicants whose first language is not English require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in each subsection. 

How To Apply

To apply for a studentship, you must register and apply through the University’s Apply to Newcastle Portal

Once registered select ‘Create a Postgraduate Application’.

Use ‘Course Search’ to identify your programme of study:

  • you can search for the ‘Course Title’ using the programme code: 8420F
  • select PhD Biosciences (FT)' as the programme of study

You will then need to provide the following information in the ‘Further Questions’ section:

  • A ‘Personal Statement’ (this is a mandatory field) - upload a document or write a statement directly into the application form
  • The studentship code BI060 in the ‘Studentship/Partnership Reference’ field
  • When prompted for how you are providing your research proposal - select ‘Write Proposal’. You should then type in the title of the research project from this advert - you do not need to upload a research proposal.

 In addition, before you submit your application you will need to upload the following supporting documentation:

  • Covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code BI060 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project 
  • Degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualification if already completed.

You will not be able to submit your application until you have submitted all required documents/information.

Contact Details

Dr Srikanth Ramaswamy: 

Funding Notes

The PhD position covers full home tuition fees and an annual stipend (living expenses) of £17,668. Successful international candidates will be required to fund the difference between home and international fees.

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