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PhD Studentship in Neuroscience (PhD Studentship)

Reference Number: R2209
Closing Date: Closed for applications
Duration: 3.5 years
Funding Amount: full UK/EU fees, plus stipend
Level of Study: Postgraduate Research
Regions: EU (Non UK), UK
This funding opportunity is now closed for application

Project title: Homeostatic plasticity in the mouse visual cortex

Plasticity of structure and function of the visual cortex in response to changes in the nature of visual experience is a classic paradigm for the study of learning processes in the brain in generally. While much of the research has focused on the effects of different forms of experience on specific synapses, such as those representing left- and right-eye input, recent work has highlighted the importance of global, homeostatic mechanisms of plasticity that control the overall level of responsiveness of visual cortical neurons. Our labs have discovered that potentiation of the open eye response during monocular patching in young mice is a homeostatic process involving synaptic scaling which depends on the AMPA receptor subunit GluA1. In contrast, adult plasticity depends neither on synaptic scaling nor GluA1 (Ranson et al., 2012, 2013).

These studies raise two important questions about plasticity in the visual cortex; first, which cells in the cortex require GluA1 to enable homeostatic potentiation, are they the excitatory pyramidal cells, the inhibitory interneurons or the glial cells? Answering this question will take use long way to understanding the cellular basis of cortical homeostatic plasticity. Second, how does the adult cortex exhibit plasticity without a synaptic scaling mechanism? Is there an alternative scaling mechanism or is the input pre-scaled before it reaches the cells that perform the plasticity function in the cortex in the visual cortex, using a combination of techniques, specifically cell-type specific viral inactivation of critical molecules, intrinsic signal imaging and calcium imaging of visual responses to measure the plasticity effect at different spatial scales, optogenetic activation of particular sub-circuits in the cortex that we suspect may be involved in scaling synaptic input during adult plasticity an extracellular recording.

Supervisors: Dr. F. Sengpiel

Start date: October 2014

Number of Studentships: 1


This studentship is generously funded by the Medical Research Council. This studentship consists of full UK/EU tuition fees, as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£13,863 p.a. for 2014/15, updated each year).

One studentship is available.


Residency: Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education. EU Nationals who do not meet the above residency requirement are eligible for a fees only award, provided that they have been ordinarily resident in the EU for at least 3 years prior to the start of their proposed programme of study.

Academic criteria: Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a 2.1 degree or higher in a relevant science-based subject.

How to Apply

Consideration is automatic on applying for PhD Neuroscience, with a start date of October 2014 via Cardiff University's Online Application Service. In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description into the text box provided. In the funding section, please select "I will be applying for a scholarship / grant" and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC).In place of the personal statement, please explain why you want to undertake a research study (approx. 500 words).

The deadline for all applications is 14 February 2014.

Further Information


  1. Ranson A, Cheetham C, Fox K, Sengpiel F (2012). Homeostatic plasticity mechanisms are required for juvenile but not adult ocular dominance plasticity. PNAS,109(4):1311U1316.
  2. Ranson A, Sengpiel F, Fox K (2013). The role of GluA1 in ocular dominance plasticity in the mouse visual cortex. J.Neurosci.,33(38):15220U15225.

Further information can be found via the Neuroscience research division webpages.

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