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What is the relevance of hormones made in the brain?


   School of Biological Sciences


Reading United Kingdom Animal Welfare Behavioural Biology Endocrinology Genetic Engineering Molecular Biology Neuropsychology Neuroscience Pathology Physiology Veterinary Pathology

About the Project

Project Overview: 

Our laboratory is interested in how hormones regulate behaviours that differ between the sexes. Our model system is the regulation of social behaviours and anxiety by oestrogens in rodents. We already know that oestrogen regulates gene transcription slowly via well-characterized intracellular nuclear receptors. However, a novel mode of oestrogen signalling termed “non-genomic signalling” has emerged where oestrogens can rapidly activate kinases or calcium flux by binding a receptor on the plasma membrane such as GPER1. Additionally, though oestrogens are typically made by the gonads, we are especially interested if oestrogens made in the brain itself can regulate behaviour and neuronal connectivity since the production of these neurosteroids and their role has been underexplored. This project is designed to test the hypothesis that rapid signalling by locally brain-produced oestrogens is necessary for neuronal health and behaviour, using mice as a model. This is also of translational relevance to understanding the side-effects of aromatase inhibitors that are used in cancer therapy and for neuroprotection. To look at neurooestrogen production, we will measure neurooestrogen concentrations in brain areas relevant to social behaviour. Secondly, we will investigate the regulation of neurosteroid synthesis by different receptors including GPER1. Thirdly, we will selectively knockout aromatase in these areas and measure social behaviours or behaviours that denote anxiety in these mice. Depending on the interest of the student, this project can be focused on molecular signalling and/or behavioural analyses. If successful, this project will highlight the role of locally produced steroids and uniquely show evidence that they may signal as neurotransmitters in the mammalian brain.  

Project Overview: 

Our laboratory is interested in how hormones regulate behaviours that differ between the sexes. Our model system is the regulation of social behaviours and anxiety by oestrogens in rodents. We already know that oestrogen regulates gene transcription slowly via well-characterized intracellular nuclear receptors. However, a novel mode of oestrogen signalling termed “non-genomic signalling” has emerged where oestrogens can rapidly activate kinases or calcium flux by binding a receptor on the plasma membrane such as GPER1. Additionally, though oestrogens are typically made by the gonads, we are especially interested if oestrogens made in the brain itself can regulate behaviour and neuronal connectivity since the production of these neurosteroids and their role has been underexplored. This project is designed to test the hypothesis that rapid signalling by locally brain-produced oestrogens is necessary for neuronal health and behaviour, using mice as a model. This is also of translational relevance to understanding the side-effects of aromatase inhibitors that are used in cancer therapy and for neuroprotection. To look at neurooestrogen production, we will measure neurooestrogen concentrations in brain areas relevant to social behaviour. Secondly, we will investigate the regulation of neurosteroid synthesis by different receptors including GPER1. Thirdly, we will selectively knockout aromatase in these areas and measure social behaviours or behaviours that denote anxiety in these mice. Depending on the interest of the student, this project can be focused on molecular signalling and/or behavioural analyses. If successful, this project will highlight the role of locally produced steroids and uniquely show evidence that they may signal as neurotransmitters in the mammalian brain.  

Endocrine/Neuroscience Group: 

The student will be part of a vibrant neuroendocrine group with an opportunity to network with overseas collaborators.  Dr Vasudevan supervises or co-supervises 8 students in interdisciplinary projects ranging from oscillations in biology, autism and regulation of behaviour. The student will learn several experimental techniques including immunoassays, molecular biological techniques, slice culture, cell culture, manipulation of genetically modified mouse models and behavioural analysis. For students interested in mentoring, there are opportunities to serve as co-advisors in summer undergraduate projects. 

School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading: 

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.   

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet. Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world. In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching. It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces. 

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities. 

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques. We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills. 

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures. We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically.   

Eligibility: 

Applications will be considered from any candidate who holds (or expects to obtain) at least a 2:1 or 1st Class Honours Degree in a Biology related subject. Molecular Biological or behavioural experience in any system would be a plus, but not necessary. 

Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements. 

How to apply: 

Submit an application for a PhD in Biomedical Sciences at http://www.reading.ac.uk/pgapply

Further information: 

http://www.reading.ac.uk/biologicalsciences/SchoolofBiologicalSciences/PhD/sbs-phd.aspx 

Enquiries: 

Dr. Nandini Vasudevan. Email at:  

Please see Dr Nandini Vasudevan’s profile: 

Dr Nandini Vasudevan – University of Reading 


Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.

References

More details at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/biologicalsciences/about/staff/n-vasudevan.aspx

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