If a neuron is connected to multiple partners, and it needs to change its connection strength with one partner but not the others, how does it do that? That is, what mechanisms underlie the specificity of synaptic plasticity?
We are studying a form of synaptic plasticity that underlies associative memory in the fruit fly Drosophila (how flies learn to associate a specific odour with reward or punishment). Here, learning makes neurons called “Kenyon cells” weaken their synapses onto postsynaptic neurons called “mushroom body output neurons” (MBONs), but not their synapses onto dopaminergic neurons or an inhibitory neuron called APL. This specificity is puzzling because this weakening occurs by Kenyon cells reducing their neurotransmitter release, yet their synaptic release sites onto dopaminergic neurons and APL are right next to their release sites onto MBONs. How can such exquisite synaptic specificity be possible in such a small space?
We’ll test the hypothesis that synaptic plasticity signalling takes place in spatially confined “microdomains”. We’ll do this using a combination of two-photon imaging to record neural activity, plus analysing the fly connectome and using new super-resolution techniques like expansion microscopy (where the brain is blown up to 4x its normal size, revealing otherwise-invisible details).
About the DTP
This studentship is offered as part of the White Rose BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in Mechanistic Biology, which brings together the research of the world-class molecular and cellular bioscience centres at the White Rose universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York.
Our mission is to train excellent bio-scientists who understand how living systems work
and can innovate to address global challenges, such as the impact of climate change, a healthier old age, sustainable food production, land use and energy production.
What is on offer?
This is a core/iCASE studentships for entry in October 2024.
Join us and you will receive a 4-year, funded PhD programme of research and skills training, with cross-disciplinary supervision, plus a structured programme of cohort-wide training and networking events. A highlight is the annual symposium, which is planned and delivered by students.
A unique part of your training will be the Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS), where you will spend three months at a host organisation of your choosing, gaining experience of work in a professional environment, and acquiring transferable skills that will be beneficial in your future career.
How to apply – Expression of Interest
Students may apply for up to three projects anywhere in the Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). Applications will be to the DTP centrally, using an online Expression of Interest (EoI). The EoI will include:
§ CV information; not submitted separately
§ Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) data
§ Names of two referees
Deadline for EoIs is midnight Sunday 7th January 2024.
Submit EoIs using this link: https://leeds.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/white-rose-bbsrc-dtp-expression-of-interest-form
Shortlisted candidates will be required to make formal applications to the Graduate School at each institution, supplying the necessary paperwork.
Interviews will be held either Friday 2nd and Monday 5th to Friday 9th February, or Monday 19th to Friday 23rd and Monday 26th February 2024, in-person at Leeds, Sheffield and York, with a panel representing all 3 Universities. Shortlisted candidates will be notified of a specific time/date to attend. If you have applied for more than one project and are selected for interview, you will be interviewed only once.