PhD Projects

The following PhD projects are currently available:

  • Identification of the functional and behavioural correlates of hippocampal synaptic plasticity (SFB 874)

    Prof. Dr. Denise Manahan-Vaughan, Learning and Memory, Department of Neurophysiology

    Synaptic plasticity is a cellular correlate of long-term learning. Although progress has been made in understanding how both log-term potentiation (LTP) amd long-term depression (LTD) contribute to long-term information storage, little is as yet know about the interplay of LTP and LTD and how they jointly lead to the creation of long-term memory.

    In this PhD project, three approaches will be used to investigate the abovementioned issue. During recordings of LTP and LTD, functional magnetic resonance imaging of the rodent brain will be conducted. Behavioural tasks will be integrated into the recording strategy. In addition, in freely behaving animals, the interplay of LTP and LTD during naturalistic learning events will be explored.

    Methods: rodent fMRT, in vivo electrophysiology, neurobiology of behaviour

    You should have competence in: MatLab and/or programming skills, (in vivo) electrophysiology in the rodent brain.

    Useful degree background: Neuroscience, Biomedical engineering, Physics, Medicine, Biology, Psychology.


  • Exploration of the interplay between place cells, grid cells and head direction cells in the generation of spatial representations (SFB 874)

    Prof. Dr. Denise Manahan-Vaughan, Learning and Memory, Department of Neurophysiology

    In the generation of spatial representations, place cells, grid cells and head direction cells are believed to play an integral role. For all three phenomena information from sensory systems is essential. Whether a hierarchy of relevance exists with regard to sensory modalities that enable spatial representation is unclear. Furthermore, it is not known to which extent internal reference information (path integration) is required, nor is the role of grid cells clear.

    In this PhD project three approaches will be used to investigate the abovementioned issue. During recordings of place cells head direction cells and/or grid cells spatial navigation under different sensory conditions will be explored. Behavioural tasks will be integrated into the recording strategy and in addition, the activity of these cells will be assessed during naturalistic learning events under the conditions of virtual reality.

    Methods: tetrode recordings in behaving rodents (in vivo electrophysiology), neurobiology of behaviour, optogenetics, virtual reality

    You should have competence in: (in vivo) electrophysiology in the rodent brain, MatLab and/or programming skills, spike sorting, biophysics

    Useful degree background: Neuroscience, Electrical engineering, Physics, Medicine, Biology, Informatics.


  • Investigation of the interplay between the ventral tegmental nucleus and the locus coeruleus in the long-term storage (memory) of behaviourally relevant experiences (DFG project)

    Prof. Dr. Denise Manahan-Vaughan, Learning and Memory, Department of Neurophysiology

    Both the locus coeruleus and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) contribute importantly to the scaling of arousal states, whereby the locus coeruleus (locus coeruleus, attention, behavioural saliency) releases noradrenalin and the VTA (reward, punishment, behavioural saliency) releases dopamine into the brain. We have shown that the stimulation of the locus coeruleus results in LTD in the hippocampus and that this is mediated by activation of both beta-adrenoreceptors and dopamine D1-receptors. The role of the VTA in the regulation of hippocampal plasticity is less clear.

    In this PhD project optogenetics, combined with in vivo electrophysiology in freely behaving rodents will be used to explore how the locus coeruleus and VTA work together to regulate hippocampal synaptic plasticity and long-term information storage. "Optogenetic" stimulation of the locus coeruleus or VTA during recordings of potentials from the hippocampus, or during specific behavioural learning paradigms will be conducted. In situ hybridization to study experience-dependent activation of hippocampal neurons (cFos, Homer) will also be used.

    Methods: optogenetics combined with in vivo electrophysiological recordings from behaving rodents, neurobiology of behaviour

    You should have competence in: (in vivo) electrophysiology in the rodent brain, optogenetics, MatLab and/or programming skills, spike sorting, biophysics

    Useful degree background: Neuroscience, Electrical engineering, Physics, Medicine, Biology, Mathematics, Informatics.


  • Interaction of the cerebellum with the hippocampus in the encoding of spatial experience (SFB 874)

    Prof. Dr. Denise Manahan-Vaughan, Learning and Memory, Department of Neurophysiology

    It has recently become apparent that the cerebellum may contribute to hippocampal information processing by providing self-reference information (vestibulation etc..) to the hippocampus, that in turn is responsible for the generation of spatial representations through phenomena such as place cells and synaptic plasticity. Exactly how this takes place is unclear.

    In this PhD project optogenetics, combined with in vivo electrophysiology, in freely behaving rodents will be used to explore how the cerebellum and hippocampus work together to regulate hippocampal synaptic plasticity and long-term information storage. "Optogenetic" stimulation or suppression of the cerebellum during recordings of potentials from the hippocampus will be conducted, amd will also be done under learning conditions. Place cell and single-unit recordings will be conducted during learning events using a virtual reality system.

    Methods: optogenetics combined with in vivo electrophysiological (field and sungle-unit) recordings from behaving rodents, neurobiology of behaviour, virtual reality

    You should have competence in: (in vivo) electrophysiology in the rodent brain, optogenetics, MatLab and/or programming skills, neurobiology, spike sorting, biophysics

    Useful degree background: Neuroscience, Electrical engineering, Physics, Medicine, Biology, Informatics.


For information about the application process please contact the coordinator Mrs Ursula Heiler.