PhD Studentships – various, School of Neurology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry/ Institute of Neuroscience
Three PhD studentships are available from October 2005 associated with therelocation of a Neural Networks Group to the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. All three posts will be part of the School of Neurology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry and be affiliated to the Institute of Neuroscience.
For further information please e-mail the relevant supervisor (see details below).
1. Cellular and synaptic mechanisms underlying amygdala oscillations.
Supervisors: Dr Mark Cunningham and Professor Miles Whittington
The amygdaloid complex which is located in thetemporal lobe, is a diverse structure and comprises ~13 nuclei. Theamygdala receives multi-modal sensory inputs and also projects to alllevels of the central nervous system. It is through these widespreadprojections that the amygdala can assist the consolidation ofemotionally arousing memories. In addition, the amygdala has also beenshown to play a role in the acquisition and expression of fear-relatedbehaviours. Recent research in vivo has demonstrated that the amygdalacan independently generate synchronous population activity that canchange depending on behavioural state. Such synchronous activity oroscillations emerge from the complex interactions between the intrinsicproperties of neurons andproperties of the network in which they are embedded.
In comparison to the neocortex and hippocampus, acomprehensive examination of neuronal oscillations in the amygdala islacking. Preliminary data from this lab has shown that a number ofoscillatory behaviours can be elicited in a slice preparation of theamygdala. Using a combination of electrophysiological, anatomical andpharmacological tools the overall aim of this study would be to carryout a detailed investigation of the cellular and synaptic mechanismsinvolved in thegeneration of various oscillatory activities in the amygdala in vitro.
The information gained about how amygdala networksbehave in various states will aid us in understanding how this regionof the brain deals with emotionally loaded memories and fear and mayhelp in the development of potential new targets for drugs that preventtheformation of traumatic memories.
2. Molecular and functional changes occurring at synapses of central
neurons in relation to neuronal and network activity.
Supervisor: Dr Claudia Racca
Neurons are the basic cellular units of the brain,and are connected via synapses to form neural networks. One of thecentral questions in neuroscience is how synapses are established, inother words how neurons can form discrete plasma membrane domains (pre-and postsynaptic domains) that differ in their regulatory properties.In particular, we are interested in understanding how these domains,which are critical in determining the specificity of information flowin the neuronal networks, can reach the high degree of molecularindividuality required for the fine processing and integration of theinputs they receive. Consequently, our scientific interests are relatedto the organising principles that govern the formation and modificationof synapses and their molecular components, and the dynamics of theseprocesses in relation to synaptic plasticity, as well as neuronalnetworks. These includes two main lines of research that are strictlycorrelated and concern the study of: -intracellular trafficking,localisation and modification of neurotransmitter receptor mRNAs andcorresponding proteins to identify key steps in the dynamic regulationof synaptic organisation and transmission. Particular emphasis is puton glutamatergic and glycinergic synapses.
– neuronal networks inrelation to the spatio-temporal regulation of synaptic transmission,and the study of their functional roles in normal and pathologicalstates, with reference to schizophrenia and epilepsy. Research in thelaboratory involves morphological, immunocytochemical and microscopytechniques, as well as electrophysiology, the latter in collaborationwith Prof. Whittington's and Dr LeBeau's groups
3. Pharmacological modulation of cortical network function.
Supervisor: Dr. Fiona LeBeau
The brain generates different patterns ofsynchronized neuronal network oscillations that reflect theco-ordinated activity of large groups of neurons. These differentpatterns of activity occur during specific behavioural/functionalstates such as processing sensory information and memory formation.This network activity can be recorded in human electroencephalogram(EEG) recordings but can also be recorded in the brain slicepreparation. We are interested in looking at how network oscillationsare modulated by neurotransmitter systems, especially dopamine andnoradrenaline. Dopamine and noradrenaline have important effects onneuronal activity but we still know relatively little about how theyeffect synchronized network oscillations. A number of drugs used boththerapeutically (e.g. Ritalin for attention deficit hyperactivitydisorder) and as drugs of abuse (e.g. cocaine and amphetamine) mediatetheir effects via the dopamine and noradrenaline neurotransmittersystems. This project aims to understand how these drugs effectsynchronized network activity in cortical brain slices. This projectwill involve electrophysiological recordings techniques (extracellular,intracellular and whole-cell patch recordings) in vitro combined withpharmacological studies. There will also be an opportunity to learnanatomical and immunocytochemisty techniques incollaboration with Dr. Claudia Racca.