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The neural basis of automatic behaviours and its application to brain-computer interfacing

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, August 31, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

We are searching for two PhD students who want to pursue research at the intersection of systems and computational neuroscience and neurotechnology.

Both students will be involved in experimental work, neural and behavioural data analysis, and computational modelling in the project described below. Each student will lead a different part of it, and is expected to collaborate with the rest of the team. The exact combination of experimental, analytical and modelling work will be arranged on a personal basis, according to the student’s background, interests, and project/team needs.

Behaviour is arguably the ultimate goal of the nervous system. Animals including humans flexibly control a broad range of goal-directed movements, such as making a cappuccino. Yet, most of our behaviours involve automatic, habitual movements that we perform almost subconsciously. These automatic movements are often performed at the same time as goal-directed movements; e.g., people walking and typing on their phones. Intriguingly, automatic movements seem to recruit brain structures different from those mediating goal-directed movements, although their neural basis remains an open question. We will study automatic behaviours and “multi-tasking” in mice using a combination of behavioural experiments, large scale neural recordings with cutting-edge technology, theoretical approaches to data analysis, and neural network circuit models. We will further use brain-computer interfaces (BCI) to causally explore the role of the identified relevant structures, and how they can be leveraged to develop better novel neurotechnologies for movement restoration.

The projects will be supervised by Juan A. Gallego. Specific studies within this larger project will involve collaborations with experts in behavioural neuroscience and computational modelling (additional details available upon request). If you are interested in a position, you can contact Juan to enquire at .


Imperial College London is one of the world’s leading engineering focused universities and its mission is to achieve enduring excellence in both research and education. The prospective students will join Imperial College’s world-leading Department of Bioengineering (http://www.imperial.ac.uk/bioengineering/). In the most recent national research assessment, 95% of the Department’s returned research was judged either world leading or internationally excellent and in the National Student Survey (2017) we achieved 97% overall student satisfaction. For more information about pursuing a PhD in the Dept. of Bioengineering, see http://www.imperial.ac.uk/bioengineering/study/postgraduate-research/doctoral/

Students will be primarily based in Imperial’s brand new BmE Hub, a 13-storey building with state-of-the-art laboratory and office facilities for the next generation of biomedical engineering research across technology and application themes. Besides the thrilling environment provided by Imperial and the benefits highlighted below, incoming students will enjoy the fantastic opportunities that London offers in terms of scientific and social life, culture, and sports.

Home, EU, and international candidates who meet the College’s PhD programme entry requirements (http://www.imperial.ac.uk/study/pg/apply/requirements/) are eligible to apply. Entry onto the PhD programme requires an undergraduate degree at 2:1 level or higher and, normally, a master’s degree with merit or higher (or non-UK equivalents) in engineering, physical sciences, mathematics, biological sciences, physiology or medicine.

Closing date: until post filled

Funding Notes

What does the studentship cover?
Studentships will cover 3 years of tuition fees and provide a 3 year, tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate; PhD studentship could be extended to 4 years depending on personal and scientific circumstances. Health insurance with the NHS is included, and PhD Students at Imperial enjoy a broad range of additional benefits. In addition, an allowance will be provided for research consumables and conference attendance.

How good is research at Imperial College London in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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