The Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB) is seeking a highly motivated PhD Student to join the Visual Cortex Plasticity Group.
IOB is a research institute combining basic and clinical research. Its mission is to drive innovations in understanding vision and its diseases and develop new therapies for vision loss. It is a place where your expertise will be valued, your abilities challenged, and your knowledge expanded.
It is increasingly likely that soon, we will be able to restore sensory function following primary receptor loss. This will come, for example, in the form of restoring light sensitivity in a degenerated retina. With any such restoration, cortex will need to adapt and relearn to process sensory input in ways it has not seen previously. Understanding how new information shapes cortical circuits and how cortical plasticity can be enhanced will be a critical component of successful sensory restoration.
The focus of the Visual Cortex Plasticity Group under the lead of Dr. Andreas Keller can be summarized with the following questions:
- What changes in cortex when we form a memory?
- What are the mechanisms?
- How can we take advantage of these mechanisms to promote plasticity during learning?
Throughout life, we learn, experience, and discover. Our brain integrates this wealth of ever-changing information in a model of the world. This challenging task requires long-term changes in neuronal circuits that should not interfere with already stored memories or with ongoing processing. To minimize interference, it has long been speculated that the coordination of the integration of new memories involves global brain-state changes as they occur e.g. during sleep. Whether this gating of plasticity is implemented through global brain-state changes and, if so, what the underlying mechanisms are remains largely unclear. One brain structure which continuously processes sensory information, but is fundamentally reshaped by experience, even in adult animals, is sensory cortex.
Following the aims of the Visual Cortex Plasticity Group, the PhD candidate will study and work on processes and mechanisms to uncover the mechanisms that gate plasticity to shape cortical circuits during learning. This will involve research on neuronal circuits, the development of novel technologies for the chronic manipulation and recording of neuronal activity, and of strategies for targeted interventions that enhance plasticity.