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Physiological basis linking sleep continuity and age-related cognitive deficits: in vivo manipulation and monitoring of activity of layer 5 neurons in the cortex of mice

   Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences

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  Dr Julie Seibt, Prof D-J Dijk  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A good night’s sleep is essential to maintain proper mental health. In particular, consolidated periods of sleep (i.e. sleep continuity) seem to be critical for cognition as reported in humans (Della Monica et al., 2018) and rodents (Rolls et al., 2011). Furthermore, the deterioration of sleep continuity with age suggests an important, yet poorly explored, relationship between both phenomena.

The project will investigate this question by assessing the role of a specific type of brain cells located in layer 5 (L5) of the cortex which has been implicated in both cognition (Ramaswamy and Markram, 2015) and sleep regulation (Krone et al., 2021; Seibt et al., 2017).

The PhD candidate will use a combination of state-of-the-art in vivo calcium imaging (photometry), wireless EEG, chemogenetics, and behavioural techniques in freely behaving animals to determine whether the activity of L5 cortical cells are causally linked to sleep fragmentation and cognitive decline during ageing.

The project will be conducted at the University of Surrey, under the supervision of Dr Julie Seibt and Prof Derk-Jan Dijk, within the Sleep Research Centre. Applicants must be highly motivated and have some background in neuroscience or related fields, ideally a Master’s degree. A background in EEG recording and analysis, or rodent behaviour is an advantage. This project is part of the Biosciences and Medicine PhD programme.

More information on the School of Biosciences and Medicine.

Entry requirements

Open to UK and international students starting in October 2022. A January 2023 would also be possible.

A First or Upper Second-Class Honours degree from the UK (or equivalent qualification from international Institutions) or Masters degree in a relevant subject area.

English language requirements: IELTS Academic 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category, or equivalent. More about our English language requirements.

How to apply

We strongly encourage informal enquiries to be sent to Dr Julie Seibt ([Email Address Removed]).

Applications should be submitted via the online application portal for Biosciences and Medicine PhDs. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application. Please include a cover letter detailing the motivation for the proposed project, CV, and the names/addresses of at least 2 referees.

Please also email Dr Julie Seibt ([Email Address Removed]) to notify her of your application.

Funding Notes

A 3.5-year fully funded studentship open to applicants worldwide. Funding includes stipend, full fees and a research grant.


Della Monica, C., Johnsen, S., Atzori, G., Groeger, J.A., Dijk, D.-J., 2018. Rapid Eye Movement Sleep, Sleep Continuity and Slow Wave Sleep as Predictors of Cognition, Mood, and Subjective Sleep Quality in Healthy Men and Women, Aged 20-84 Years. Front. Psychiatry 9, 255. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00255
Krone, L.B., Yamagata, T., Blanco-Duque, C., Guillaumin, M.C.C., Kahn, M.C., van der Vinne, V., McKillop, L.E., Tam, S.K.E., Peirson, S.N., Akerman, C.J., Hoerder-Suabedissen, A., Molnár, Z., Vyazovskiy, V.V., 2021. A role for the cortex in sleep-wake regulation. Nat. Neurosci. 24, 1210–1215. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-021-00894-6
Ramaswamy, S., Markram, H., 2015. Anatomy and physiology of the thick-tufted layer 5 pyramidal neuron. Front. Cell. Neurosci. 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2015.00233
Rolls, A., Colas, D., Adamantidis, A., Carter, M., Lanre-Amos, T., Heller, H.C., de Lecea, L., 2011. Optogenetic disruption of sleep continuity impairs memory consolidation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 108, 13305–13310. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1015633108
Seibt, J., Richard, C.J., Sigl-Glöckner, J., Takahashi, N., Kaplan, D.I., Doron, G., de Limoges, D., Bocklisch, C., Larkum, M.E., 2017. Cortical dendritic activity correlates with spindle-rich oscillations during sleep in rodents. Nat. Commun. 8, 684. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-00735-w
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