Fully Funded PhD Scholarship in Psychology

University of Sheffield - Psychology

This is one of many projects in competition for the current funding opportunities available within the Department of Psychology

Project title: Computational models of the basal ganglia

Primary supervisor: Dr Robert Schmidt

Project description:  The basal ganglia are involved in motor control and contribute to the selection, initiation, execution and suppression of actions. In this project you will create computational models of neural processing in different basal ganglia subregions. This is includes for example the generation of movement-related activity in the striatum, its modulation by dopamine, and its interaction with motor suppressing activity. Furthermore, you will relate neural processing in the basal ganglia to transient oscillations such as beta oscillations (Leventhal et al., 2012; Mirzaei et al., 2017). The model will be embedded in simulated behavioural tasks (e.g. a stop-signal task) to provide a connection with behaviour and to allow a comparison with electrophysiological recordings in rats (e.g. Schmidt et al., 2013; Mallet et al., 2016). The goal is to account for the rich firing patterns in basal ganglia neurons and characterize how sensory inputs related to behaviour (e.g. Go cues) affect motor signals and reaction times.


Leventhal, D. K., Gage, G. J., Schmidt, R., Pettibone, J. R., Case, A. C., & Berke, J. D. (2012). Basal ganglia beta oscillations accompany cue utilization. Neuron, 73(3), 523-536.

Mallet, N., Schmidt, R., Leventhal, D., Chen, F., Amer, N., Boraud, T., & Berke, J. D. (2016). Arkypallidal cells send a stop signal to striatum. Neuron, 89(2), 308-316.

Mirzaei, A., Kumar, A., Leventhal, D., Mallet, N., Aertsen, A., Berke, J., & Schmidt, R. (2017). Sensorimotor Processing In The Basal Ganglia Leads To Transient Beta Oscillations During Behavior. bioRxiv, 136879.

Schmidt, R., Leventhal, D. K., Mallet, N., Chen, F., & Berke, J. D. (2013). Canceling actions involves a race between basal ganglia pathways. Nature neuroscience, 16(8), 1118-1124.

Start date: 1 October 2018

Requirements:  Applicants must have a minimum of a first class or high upper second-class undergraduate honours degree and a distinction or high merit at Masters level in psychology or a related discipline.

Funding: Tuition fees £4194 per year Living Expenses £14,500.00

Science Graduate School

As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you'll be part of the Science Graduate School. You'll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You'll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit www.sheffield.ac.uk/sgs to learn more.

Closing date for applications is 5pm Wednesday 24 January 2018

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