A fully funded (BBSRC White Rose) 4-year Ph.D. studentship available in the Juusola Laboratory at the Department of Biomedical Science in the University of Sheffield, starting in 2017. The studentship includes tuition fees, stipend and a £5K RTSG per year and a 3-month internship (PIPS) away from the lab.

Background: Eyes and brains code information about the world as neural activity patterns, but little is understood about how these patterns originate and are used for executing visual behaviours. However, it is likely that the underlying computations occur at the level of circuits, where neurons and their connections interact dynamically. The first activity patterns that encode visual information are generated in retinal circuits, which for many animals is also the only source of visual sensation. Experiments and theory suggest that these early ‘neural images’ employ adaptive synaptic processing to capture behaviourally-important features in visual scenes. Because vision must guide behaviour according to the similarities and differences between objects, resolving the uncertainty of images is a central challenge for their early processing. While the visual systems have evolved to deal with this challenge, their workings and computational principles that form the basis for object recognition remain unclear.

Objectives: (i) To assess how contrast/colour/motion information is represented and distributed at the level of the first visual synapses in the honeybee retina and lamina. (ii) To compare this early visual information processing to honeybee behavior at the same test stimulus conditions.

Novelty and timeliness: Our new experimental and theoretical methods are unique in the world, enabling us to perform groundbreaking experiments that link single cell and network processing in the honeybee compound eyes to animal behaviour.

Experimental Approach: Performing intracellular recordings from honeybee photoreceptors and visual interneurons in a new virtual reality system, and comparing and analysing these results against our mathematical models.

The student will investigate early visual information processing and locomotion control, using neural recordings from honeybees in virtual flight/walking simulators. This approach will allow the student to link experiments with theory, connecting visual environments presented to real bees to their retinal image processing and locomotion, and to mathematical models of early vision.

If you are interested in this Ph.D. project (and in quantitative approaches to neuroscience and behaviour in general), please email contact Mikko:

Prof. Mikko Juusola
Department of Biomedical Science The University of Sheffield Sheffield S10 2TN, UK m.juusola@sheffield.ac.uk
Tel. 0114-222 1087

We would encourage students from Engineering, Physics and Mathematics and Biologists with a strong motivation for quantitative work and hand-on experimental research to apply.

Primary Supervisor: Prof. Mikko Juusola http://www.shef.ac.uk/bms/research/juusola

Co-supervisors: Prof. James Marshall http://staffwww.dcs.shef.ac.uk/people/J.Marshall/james.html

Dr. Alex Cope http://www.alexcope.co.uk