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Revealing the anti-epileptic mechanisms of non-psychoactive cannabinoids

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Bojak
    Dr Whalley
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Project Overview:

In epilepsy, the brain switches spontaneously from normal to synchronized seizure activity. One third of people with epilepsy fail to gain seizure control with available treatments. We have investigated cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidivarin (CBDV), cannabis compounds that lack mind-altering properties. CBD can alleviate previously drug-resistant epilepsies, and CBDV clinical trials are under way.

A unique feature of these drugs is their enhancement of communication among neurons in healthy brains but suppression in epileptic ones. We will study this mysterious disease-dependent effect with a neural population model. First, based on experimental data obtained previously, we will determine how to model faithfully the drug effects. Second, we will use this knowledge to analyse the impact on healthy and epileptic neuronal networks.

Our study will provide mechanistic insights concerning one of the most promising new treatments for drug-resistant epilepsies. This will help guiding the clinical applications being developed currently, e.g., by suggesting differential diagnoses and appropriate dosages.

School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading:

The University of Reading is one of the UK’s 20 most research-intensive universities and among the top 200 universities in the world. Achievements include the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement (1989) and the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education (1998, 2006 and 2009). The modelling will take place in the School of Systems Engineering (SSE), which has a strong reputation for its innovative research in computer science, cybernetics, and electronic engineering. Recent major investments have further strengthened the neuroscience activities in SSE, with two new professors, three new lecturers and the creation of a Brain Embodiment Lab. This work will be carried out in close collaboration with the School of Pharmacy, which has pioneered research in cannabinoids, and we will have access to data from past and present experimental projects there.


Applicants should have a Bachelors (1st class or equivalent) or Masters degree in Computational Neuroscience or a related discipline (e.g., Neuroscience, Physics, Applied Mathematics, Computer Science).

This is a computational neuroscience project, which requires skills and knowledge in neuroscience, applied mathematics and programming. Candidates with a good background in at least two of these fields are encouraged to apply, if enthusiastic about the third. The core of this project will be drug effect modelling with a focus on epilepsy. Prior experience with either is highly desirable, though not necessary. The student has the opportunity to engage with the on-going experiments of the Co-Supervisor, Dr Ben Whalley (School of Pharmacy), if they are interested.

How to apply:

(1) Submit an application for a PhD in Cybernetics using the link below.
(2) After submitting your application you will receive an email to confirm receipt; this email should be forwarded along with a covering letter and a full CV to Prof Ingo Bojak ([email protected]).
(3) In the online application system, there is a section for “Research proposal” and a box that says “If you have already been in contact with a potential supervisor, please tell us who” – in this box, please enter “Prof Ingo Bojak”.

Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.

Students from Brazil: we welcome and support applications for the Science Without Borders Scholarship (Ciência sem Fronteiras) - http://www.reading.ac.uk/sciencewithoutbordersscholarships.

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