PhD Studentship: Optical imaging and manipulation of the neural substrates of the reinforcing effects of heroin versus cocaine

University of Sussex - School of Psychology, University of Sussex

Supervisors: Prof Aldo Badiani and Dr Hans Crombag (School of Psychology, University of Sussex)

It is commonly thought that the reinforcing effects of all classes of addictive drugs are mediated by the activation of shared neural substrates. However, studies in rodents and humans suggest that the substrates of heroin reward are largely distinct from those responsible for cocaine reward (Badiani et al. 2013). In particular, recent molecular biology experiments conducted in our laboratory (using the catFISH in situ hybridization technique) indicate that the neuronal circuitry engaged by heroin overlaps only partially with that engaged by cocaine. The aim of the present project is to further investigate the neural basis of heroin versus cocaine reward in rodents using optical imaging and manipulation techniques (such as optogenetics and fiber photometry calcium imaging) in combination with intravenous drug self-administration, drug-induced conditioned place preference, and drug-induced locomotor activity.

  • Studentship awards will be based on a competitive process, including interview. There are two types of awards available: +3 studentships, which fund a three-year full-time PhD, and 1+3 studentships, which fund a one-year Master’s degree followed by a three-year full-time PhD. Full-time studentship covering tuition fee, and a maintenance allowance (currently £14,553 per annum).
  • The competitive awards are funded by the School of Psychology (+3, eligibility: Home or EU residency); the ESRC (1+3 or +3, eligibility at South-East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS); or the Chancellor’s International Research Scholarship (+3, eligibility at Chancellor's International Research Scholarship (2018).
  • 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 your application online for the ‘PhD in Psychology’ programme for September 2018 through this link
  • In the ‘Supervisor suggested by applicant’ section of your application form, please put name of supervisor
  • In the ‘Proposed source of funding’ as School of Psychology and/or SeNSS, or CIRS).

Candidates should provide:

  • A research proposal that outlines your knowledge of the research area, hypotheses that could be addressed in your PhD, and an outline of potential methods. Your answer 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.
  • 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 send an email for the attention of 'Postgraduate Coordinator' to:

To discuss the details of this PhD project further, please contact Prof Aldo Badiani via email:

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South East England