Using light to control brain activity

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Masters by Research
Department / Centre
Royal Melbourne Hospital
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Prof Nigel Jones 0399030862
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr. Matt Hudson

Summary This project will use laser light to inhibit and activate a specific class of brain cell in mice, and observe how this impacts working memory

Project Details

Schizophrenia is a complex psychiatric condition, and existing medications are not satisfactory. In particular, cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, which include deficits in working memory, are recognised as core features of the disorder but are not improved by any known treatments. An emerging theory that has gained much popularity is that cognitive deficits in schizophrenia are due to disturbances in high frequency brain rhythms, referred to as gamma oscillations. Gamma oscillations underlie many higher order brain processes, including those which are dysfunctional in schizophrenia, supporting a causal link. However, this remains at a theoretical stage, with much to be discovered regarding the causes of aberrant gamma oscillations in schizophrenia, and how these impact cognition. This project will take advantage of recent technological advances allowing for the activity of specific brain cells to be selectively controlled using light. This technique, referred to as optogenetics, will be used to directly target the cells known to generate gamma oscillations (Parvalbumin-positive cells; PV cells) and assess what the effects of this are on oscillatory activity and working memory performance in mice.

This project aims to answer two primary research questions:

  1. Does PV cell inhibition during specific stages of a working memory task alter task performance?
  2. Does PV cell inhibition cause disruptions to gamma oscillatory activity?

Project related methods/skills/technologies:

  • Mouse surgery
  • Optogenetics
  • Mouse behavioural assessment (touch-screen cognitive testing)
  • In vivo electrophysiology
  • Signal processing and analysis of electrophysiological data (using MATLAB)

This project is available as an Honours or a PhD project and would be suitable for a student with a strong interest in behavioural neuroscience.

Faculty Research Themes

School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Research Opportunities

PhD students, Masters by Research
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

Department / Centre


Research Node

Royal Melbourne Hospital

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