PhD Studentship - Neurocomputational models of hippocampus-dependent place learning and navigation

University of Nottingham - Mathematical Sciences

Location: University Park

Supervised by Prof Stephen Coombes (Mathematical Sciences) and Dr Tobias Bast (Psychology)

This project will be based at the University of Nottingham in the School of Mathematical Sciences and the School of Psychology.

Humans and other animals can readily remember significant places and associated events and return to these places as appropriate. From an experimental point of view, studies of the neuro-psychological mechanisms underlying place learning and navigation offer unique opportunities, because similar tests can be used in rodent models and human participants. Studies in rodent models have led to a detailed understanding of the neuro-psychological mechanisms of place memory, and the importance of the hippocampus for place learning and navigation in humans and other animals is well-established. In this project, we aim to develop quantitative models describing how neurons in the hippocampus and associated brain areas give rise to place learning and navigation, and construct an in silicomodel for testing ideas about functional mechanisms. The project brings together behavioural neuroscience expertise on hippocampal function and place learning (Bast, Psychology) with expertise in mathematical and computational neuroscience (Coombes, Mathematical Sciences) to understand rapid place learning. A particular emphasis will be on the hippocampal learning-behaviour translation: how place information (as encoded, for example, by hippocampal place cells) is related to decision making processes and, ultimately, translated into motor behaviour (for example, by way of interactions with prefrontal and subcortical circuits).  From a mathematical perspective the project will develop new neurocomputational models of hippocampus-dependent place learning and navigation using tools from stochastic optimal control, reinforcement learning theory, dynamical systems and computational neuroscience.

Summary: UK/EU students - Tuition Fees paid, and full Stipend at the RCUK rate, which is £14,296 per annum for 2016/17. There will also be some support available for you to claim for limited conference attendance. The scholarship length will be 3 or 3.5, depending on the qualifications and training needs of the successful applicant.

Eligibility/Entry Requirements: We require an enthusiastic graduate with a 1st class degree in Mathematics (or other highly mathematical field such as Physics or Chemistry), preferably at MMath/MSc level, or an equivalent overseas degree (in exceptional circumstances a 2:1 class degree, or equivalent, can be considered).

Apply: This studentship is available to start from September 2017 and remain open until it is filled. To apply please visit the University Of Nottingham application page:

For any enquiries please email:

This studentship is open until filled. Early application is strongly encouraged. 

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Midlands of England