PhD studentship: Optical dissection of brain circuitries underlying contextual reward memories

University of Sussex - School of Psychology

PhD studentship available for September 2017

Supervisor:  Dr Hans S. Crombag and Dr Catherine N. Hall (School of Psychology, University of Sussex)

Our ability to reliably and accurately recall past experiences critically depends on context; thus, memory recall is facilitated when the context of learning and retrieval are similar, whilst ‘out of context’ retrieval is often degraded. This context-dependency of memory recall permits enormous cognitive and behavioural flexibility and operates on many forms of learning and memory, including ‘simple’ forms of associative learning and memory that shape our emotional and motivational life.

Context-dependent motivational memory recall is thought to involve excitatory outputs from the hippocampus modulating activity in deeper brain regions such as the amygdala and accumbens responsible for regulating goal-directed actions by affect and cognition. Critically, disruption of neuronal activity in this network, e.g. as a result of disease, ageing-related degeneration, or even dietary factors, may contribute to neuropsychiatric sequelea, including memory-impairments seen in Alzheimer’s disease. An understanding of the dynamics of activity in these circuits during memory recall is currently lacking, however.

The project investigates hippocampus-related circuitry dynamics during ‘normal’ context-dependent motivational memory recall, and following hippocampal insult as a result of e.g. high fat diet exposure, using sophisticated behavioral modeling in mice and state-of-the-art deep-brain optical imaging (fiber photometry) and pathway-specific manipulations of neuronal activity (optogenetics). You will be working within a larger interdisciplinary team of scientists in Psychology, Neuroscience and Informatics.

Applications should be made by Tuesday 10th January 2017. The award of the studentship will be based on a competitive process. If awarded, it would be a full-time studentship (funded for a duration of three years) covering tuition fee, and a maintenance allowance. The maintenance allowance is currently £14,296 per annum.

Eligibility requirements for potential candidates:

  • This award will only pay fees at the Home/EU rate (http://www.sussex.ac.uk/brexit/). Candidates may not be eligible for the full award if they do not meet UK residency requirements. Please check the ESRC guidelines for details of eligibility.
  • Candidates must have, or expect to obtain, a First or a high Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree, or equivalent qualification, and/or a Master's degree in Psychology or a related discipline.

Guidance for applicants:

  • Application procedures can be found here.
  • Please submit an online application for the ‘PhD in Psychology’ programme, for September 2017 entry through this link.
  • State in the ‘Funding information’ section of your application that you are applying for this studentship, giving the title of the project as above and mention the supervisors in the ‘Supervisor suggested by applicant’ section.
  • The proposed source of funding should be specified as 'ESRC or School of Psychology’.

Candidates should provide:

  • A research statement briefly outlining your current state of knowledge, hypotheses that could be addressed, and an outline of potential methods. Your statement should not exceed 2 pages including references, be set at minimum 10 font type with margins a minimum of 1cm.
  • An up-to-date CV.
  • A current degree transcript(s) with full details of performance on all completed courses.
  • Two academic references.

For queries with respect to the application process please email for the attention of 'Postgraduate Coordinator' to: psychology@sussex.ac.uk         

To discuss the details of this PhD project further, please contact Dr Hans Crombag: H.Crombag@sussex.ac.uk

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Type / Role:

PhD

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Location(s):

South East England