Role of prefrontal cortex and amygdala in social cognition and reward-based learning.

KU Leuven
June 27 2017
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

Applications are invited for a PhD position for a bright and highly motivated student in the Department of Neurosciences at KU Leuven University. The candidate will work with Prof. Koen Nelissen on a project investigating the cortical and subcortical substrates of flexible behavior towards reward-based learning in non-human primates. The lab for Neuro- & Psychophysiology at KU Leuven offers an international, interactive and stimulating research environment. We have access to state-of-the-art imaging facilities, including 3T fMRI and PET imaging.

KU Leuven is one of the oldest and most renowned universities in Europe. It is based in Leuven, a historic and lively student town, situated close to Brussels and less than 2 hours from London, Paris and Amsterdam.

Orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and amygdala (AMY) are crucial nodes in the neural circuits underlying social cognition, emotional learning, and attention. These reciprocally connected structures have been implicated in several psychiatric disorders, and dysfunctional “top-down” OFC-AMY, and “bottom-up” AMY-OFC pathways have both been speculated underlie symptoms like emotional dysregulation, abnormal sociality, and abnormal motivations. While it is impossible to prove causal roles for either circuit in humans at present, gene transfer-based methods for controlling in vivo circuit activity in rodents are reaching maturity, and preliminary reports show these methods are well-tolerated and functional in non-human primates as well. This project involves investigating both the behavioral and functional consequences of reversibly inhibiting AMY-OFC projections, using a state-of-the art pharmacogenetic approach, in combination with functional MRI in the awake rhesus monkey. 

This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess

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