Learning about our spatial environments and how to navigate within these environments is critical for all species. It is a long-standing goal of neuroscience to understand how our brains support these processes. This goal is becoming ever more important as it has become apparent that spatial processing is particularly sensitive to both normal ageing and pathological ageing, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The retrosplenial cortex appears to be particularly important for processing information about our environments. We recently used an in vivo imaging technique (two-photon imaging) to identify patterns of neuronal activity that developed as animals learnt a spatial memory task; the more stable representations at the end of training were related to how well the animals performed the task.
We also found cells in the retrosplenial cortex that responded to visual stimuli and the movement of the animal. Combining visual-spatial and movement information at a neuronal level could be critical for the retrosplenial cortex’s role in navigation. This project will build on these previous findings to try and understand at a network level how these spatial representations within the retrosplenial cortex are formed. An important question is how connections with other brain regions such as the hippocampus and visual cortex help these representations to develop and how the interaction across these brain structures changes from when an environment Is new to when it has become familiar and well-learnt.
The project will provide an opportunity to learn a number of skills including behavioural testing, in vivo neuronal imaging and in vivo electrophysiology. In addition, chemogenetic and optogenetic approaches enable us to temporarily inactivate or stimulate different pathways within the network to determine which are particularly important for different aspects of spatial learning and memory. The overall aim of this project is to identify specific neuronal pathways related to the retrosplenial cortex that underpin the acquisition and retention of spatially-related representations.
Supervisors will be Professor Seralynne Vann (School of Psychology) and Professor Frank Sengpiel (School of Biosciences)
About the SWBio DTP
The BBSRC-funded South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP) is led by the University of Bristol, together with the Universities of Bath, Cardiff and Exeter, alongside Rothamsted Research. This partnership also includes the following associate partners; Marine Biological Association (MBA), Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), SETsquared Bristol, Swansea University, UCB Pharma, and University of the West of England (UWE).
These institutions represent a distinctive group of bioscience research staff and students, with established international, national and regional networks, and widely recognised research excellence. As research leaders, we have a strong track record in advancing knowledge through high-quality research and teaching, in partnership with industry and the government.
The programme particularly aims to provide students with outstanding interdisciplinary research training within the following themes:
· Advancing the frontiers of bioscience discovery
· Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food
· Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health
Importantly this research training is also underpinned by transformative technologies, allowing you to expand the boundaries of your research through innovative tools, technologies and approaches
You will be recruited to a broad, interdisciplinary project, supported by a multidisciplinary supervisory team, with many cross-institutional PhD projects available that build on the expertise of each of our partners. There are also opportunities to:
· apply your research in an industrial setting through our projects with an industrial partner (DTP CASE studentships).
· undertake research jointly with some of our core and associate partners (Standard DTP studentships with an associate partner).
Some projects will also offer working with other national/international researchers, as well as fieldwork opportunities
A structured approach to training will be adopted throughout a 4-year PhD model, to ensure you are well equipped as a bioscience researcher for leadership positions in academia, industry and beyond.
A fully-funded four year SWBio DTP studentship will cover:
- a stipend* (at the standard UKRI rate; £15,609 per annum for 2021-2022)
- research and training costs
- tuition fees
- additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month placement
* Subject to meeting eligibility requirements.
For further information, please visit the SWBio DTP website.
- When completing your application, please list Doctor of Philosophy as the 'qualification' and 1 October 2022 as the 'start date'.
- You will need to include the project you are applying to and the main supervisor as part of the application.
- For funded studentships: When asked if you are intending to self-fund, please select No and within the text box list BBSRC South Bioscience DTP
- You will need to submit a separate application for each project you wish to be considered for.
- Guidance on how to complete your application
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