PhD studentship for Developing Auditory Closed-Loop Stimulation Therapeutics for a Marmoset Model of Social Cognition Disorders

Vacancy Reference Number
Closing Date
4 Mar 2024
PhD studentships are funded by the Newcastle Neuroscience Fund for 3 years.
Biosciences Institute, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, NE2 4HH
3 years
About the Project Background: Atypical theta synchrony between the amygdala and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is a hallmark of social cognitive disorders such as anxiety and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The mPFC-amygdala circuit is extensively connected with auditory regions that are responsive to natural vocalisations characterised by theta rhythms. These vocalisations entrain theta oscillations in the auditory cortex, facilitating sound processing in both humans and nonhuman primates. Thus, auditory stimulation offers a promising non-invasive approach to modulate theta oscillations within the amygdala-mPFC circuitry. This project aims to develop a novel marmoset model with closed-loop acoustic stimulation designed to influence prefrontal-amygdala theta oscillations and social cognitive behaviours. The project will involve 3 phases: 1. Create a wireless electrophysiology system for auditory stimulation in free-moving marmosets. 2. Implement closed-loop auditory stimulation using phase-shifted local field potentials to manipulate theta oscillations in the amygdala and the mPFC. 3. Evaluate the stimulation’s effect on marmoset social cognition using tests derived from those for autistic children. Hypothesis: Timed closed-loop auditory stimulation, synchronised with theta oscillations in the mPFC-amygdala circuit, modulates these oscillations and thereby regulates social cognitive functions. Methods: Employing the auditory stimulation closed-loop system with human EEG, the student will tailor this technology to control theta oscillations in marmoset amygdala and prefrontal cortex circuitry. The student will examine the impact of auditory stimulation on marmoset natural social behaviours at their home cages using AI-based motion detection systems. Marmosets are well-suited for this proposal due to their highly developed vocal communication abilities, intricate social structures, and well-developed frontal cortex. Potential Impact: Successful outcomes may establish the basis for novel closed-loop therapies using acoustic stimulation enhancing social cognition, significantly advancing mental health treatments. Supervisory team: The student will join a multidisciplinary team at Newcastle University and undergo comprehensive training in bioengineering, neurotechnology, primate electrophysiology and behavioural testing closely aligned with clinical research to enhance the study’s translational potential. Dr Yuki Kikuchi has extensive experience in primate auditory neuroscience and her laboratory is well-equipped for developing closed-loop electrophysiology systems on behaving nonhuman primates through her strong collaboration with the neural engineering team that provides the development of wireless recording and closed-loop neurostimulation algorithms. Dr Marc Woodbury-Smith, a clinical academic specialising in ASD, will facilitate the translation of primate research findings to therapies for autistic children, boosting the study's clinical application potential. How to Apply: FURTHER DETAILS AND A GUIDE TO THE FORMAT REQUIRED FOR THE APPLICATION DOCUMENTS IS AVAILABLE AT . Please read the information there before submitting your application. Applications not meeting these criteria may be rejected.

Further Information

The PhD studentship provides:

1. a stipend for living expenses (currently £19544 p.a.)

2. home tuition fees. Applications are welcome from students in all countries. Students from outside the UK will pay full international fees. International students will be eligible to apply for a Newcastle University Scholarship to cover the additional cost

3. a research support allowance of £5000 p.a.

Contact Details

Email for enquires about how to apply:

Informal enquiries about the project should be made to the supervisors:

Dr Yuki Kikuchi -