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PhD Studentship: The Flow of Information Controlling Visually-Driven Behaviour

University of Sussex - Neurosience Department

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Sussex, Brighton, Falmer
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: Funding amount: Home (UK) tuition fees and stipend at standard UKRI rates
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 15th December 2023
Closes: 26th February 2024
 

Funding for: UK Students

Funding amount: Home (UK) tuition fees and stipend at standard UKRI rates.

A PhD studentship (4years) is available from September 2024 under the supervision of Prof. Leon Lagnado, Neurosience Department, School of Life Sciences.

Deadline: 26th February 2024

Brief Description of the Project:

An animal interacting with its environment is constantly using sensory information to guide actions. The neural mechanisms involved in the initial extraction of this information have been studied in detail, for instance in the context of vision, hearing and smell, but we do not understand how this information is converted into behaviour. Our lack of understanding reflects difficulties in quantifying neural information as it flows from the sensory periphery to circuits controlling motor actions. Using larval zebrafish, we will investigate how information leaving the retina is used to guide behaviours driven by vision. To track the flow of visual information we will focus on synapses because these are the fundamental units of communication in the brain and because their operation is plastic: modulation of synaptic input-output relations allows the computations generating behaviour to adjust.

The project will investigate how the retinal output is generated and the subsequent processing of this output in downstream visual centres. Directly linked to this, we will investigate the plasticity of these circuits and the mechanisms that adjust visually-driven behaviour in response to information from other senses (especially smell) and/or changes in internal state (especially diurnal control).

The project will involve a range of techniques, including multiphoton microscopy of circuit activity in live zebrafish, behavioural analysis and quantitative approaches such as information theory.

The project will be within a very active lab (https://lagnadolab.com/) that is part of a large and vibrant community of neuroscientists (https://www.sussex.ac.uk/research/centres/sussex-neuroscience/). Informal enquiries about the project can be made to Leon Lagnado at l.lagnado@sussex.ac.uk.

Moya-Díaz, J., James, B., Esposti, F., Johnston, J., Lagnado, L. (2022). Diurnal changes in the efficiency of information transmission at a sensory synapse
Nature Communications, 13, 2613.

James, B Darnet L, Moya-Diaz J, Seibel S-H, & Lagnado L. (2019). An amplitude code transmits information at a visual synapse. Nature Neuroscience, 22(7):1140-1147.

Johnston, J., Seibel, S-H., Darnet, L., Renninger, S., Orger, M. & Lagnado, L. (2019). A Retinal Circuit Generating a Dynamic Predictive Code for Oriented Features.  Neuron, 102(6):1211-1222.

How to apply:

Please submit a formal application by clicking the 'Apply' button, above, attaching a CV, degree transcripts and certificates, personal statement, and two academic referees. A research proposal is not required.

On the application system select Programme of Study – PhD Neuroscience. Please state the project title under funding obtained and the supervisor’s name where required.

Candidates should have or expect to obtain a minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree. An MSc degree will be advantageous. Your qualification should be in Neuroscience or a related subject area. You may also be considered for the position if you have other professional qualifications or experience of equivalent standing.

Candidates for whom English is not their first language will require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in any section - English language requirements

Applications are particularly welcomed from candidates with protected characteristics – e.g., from Black and other ethnic minorities – who are under-represented in postgraduate research at our institution.

For enquiries about the application process, please email Emma Chorley: lifesci-rec@sussex.ac.uk

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