PhD Project - EASTBIO: A neurophysiological study of cortical inputs to the brains representation of direction

Vacancy Reference Number
Closing Date
16 Dec 2021
University of Edinburgh

Deanery of Biomedical Sciences

A fundamental ability of both people and terrestrial animals is their capacity to recognise familiar locations. For example, people tend to reorient to large landmarks such as bodies of water or conspicuous buildings in a familiar city. How, in the brain, does this type of information guide orientation? This project will answer this question by using cutting edge neurophysiological techniques in rodents and humans.

In the mammalian brain there are neurons that fire when an animal faces a specific direction. These are termed head direction cells, and they are thought to provide the basis for a sense of direction. In this project, we will examine how visual landmark information reaches the head direction system. This is an important issue in the field, as recent evidence indicates that there are two types of direction representations in the brain: one that is driven primarily by self-motion cues, and a second that is driven by external visual landmarks.1 

The student conducting this work will gain expertise in rodent stereotaxic surgery, in vivo electrophysiological recording of neuronal activity (single neurons, ensembles, local field potentials) and behavioural assessment of spatial cognition. In addition, this work may be extended to human navigation with the use of mobile EEG. All rodent work will be conducted at the University of Edinburgh in well-equipped laboratories for in vivo neuronal recording and behavioural assessment. The student on this project will have the opportunity to present their work at national and international neuroscience meetings.