University of Reading PhD Studentship (UK/EU only)
Project Title: Dendrites and layers: Neural field models in three dimensions
Supervisor: Prof Ingo Bojak
School/Department: School of Systems Engineering
Neural field models treat cortical tissue as continuous with emergent properties. Since neocortex has the surface area of three A4 sheets but is only 1-5 mm thick, classical theories locate neural activity on a 2D “cortical sheet”. This approach has been highly successful in describing in particular the electroencephalogram (EEG). However, neurons are organized into six anatomical layers. They also form dendritic trees, branching fibers that create large input areas, and project axons (output fibers) to the dendrites of other neurons. Their size and arrangement depends systematically on neuron type and depth, creating neural “microcircuits” across layers. This project brings this third cortical dimension to neural field models. We will develop a 3D theory that incorporates shunting synaptic inputs arranged in realistic spatial patterns across the dendrites, and produce a software package that allows rapid evaluation of such models (possibly with GPU acceleration). We will fit laminar electrode and/or EEG data from schizophrenic patients, and explore (speculative) functional consequences of dendritic processing, like burst-suppression in anesthesia or acquired epilepsy.
This is a computational neuroscience project which requires skills and knowledge in neuroscience, applied mathematics and programming. Candidates that have a strong background in at least two of these three fields are welcome to apply, if they are enthusiastic about the third. Neural field models are a particularly accommodating subject for transitions from physics, engineering, etc. into the life sciences. However, we will also place a strong focus on describing real-world data; depending on student aptitude and preference, the candidate can engage with ongoing electrophysiological and animal experiments directly relevant to this project (e.g., acquired epilepsy) via the Co-Supervisor, Dr Ben Whalley of the Reading School of Pharmacy, in order to identify and validate exploitable applications of the model.
Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in a relevant subject. Please note that due to restrictions on the funding this studentship is for UK/EU applicants only.
Studentship will cover Home/EU Fees and pay the Research Council minimum stipend (£13,590 for 2011/12) for up to 3 years. The studentship will begin in October 2013.
How to apply
To apply for this studentship please submit an application for a PhD in Cybernetics to the University at http://www.reading.ac.uk/Study/apply/pg-applicationform.aspx. Please quote the reference GS13-07 in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding Section of your online application.
Friday, 15th March 2013.
Please contact Prof Ingo Bojak, firstname.lastname@example.org. Prof Bojak will join the University of Reading in May 2013. Interviews may be conducted in his current place of work (University of Birmingham) prior to this date.