2018 Intake – Neuroscience & Mental Health Projects

Please find the details of the available projects for the Neuroscience and Mental Health theme outlined below. A full list of our available projects can be downloaded here.

Full project descriptions can be downloaded by clicking on the link in the project title. Contact details for the lead supervisor can be found by clicking on their name.

For details on how to apply, please head back to our How to Apply page. Our application form can be found here.


Refining the construct of resilience and identifying neural markers of resilience in young people
Resilience can be defined as maintaining positive mental health in the face of adversity. This project will use computational methods to identify resilient individuals in a large sample of young people (N=1700) and then apply neuroimaging methods to examine how resilient individuals differ from their non-resilient peers in terms of brain structure.
Supervisor: Dr Graeme Fairchild.
Lead Institution: Bath.

Polyphenols as inhibitors of tau toxicity: protecting neuronal network function in Alzheimer’s Disease
There is an urgent need for new therapeutic approaches to treat Alzheimer’s Disease. This interdisciplinary project will use newly developed biochemical screening approaches, state-of the art cell imaging in neurons and in vivo neurophysiology in transgenic mice to determine if novel polyphenolics inhibit tau-induced synaptic dysfunction in AD.
Supervisor: Dr Robert Williams.
Lead Institution: Bath.

Examining the link between multisensory and socio-emotional processing in anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder
Despite evidence of altered multisensory processes in individuals with socio-emotional deficits (e.g. autism spectrum disorders), no study has examined these processes in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder. This project will fill this gap in research and clarify the role of multisensory processing in Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy.
Supervisor: Dr Karin Petrini.
Lead Institution: Bath.

Pericyte-mediated vasoconstriction and hypoperfusion in Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
To clarify the mechanisms of pericyte-mediated cerebral hypoperfusion in AD, pericyte content and activation will be assessed immunohistochemically and biochemically in human brain tissue, and by multiphoton imaging and electrophysiology in cultured human cells and transgenic mouse models under conditions simulating AD and chronic hypoperfusion.
Supervisor: Dr Scott Miners.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

The role of microRNA activity in regulating synaptic dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) involves progressive malfunction and then loss of synapses. MicroRNAs, which control synaptic protein expression by repressing mRNA translation, are involved in AD. This project will identify mechanisms linking microRNA activity to synaptic deficits in mouse models of AD, with the aim of defining novel therapeutic targets.
Supervisor: Dr Jonathan Hanley.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Fly, mouse and computational modelling of the effect of Alzheimer disease on clock neuron excitability
Alzheimer Disease (AD) involves amyloid  accumlation resulting in loss of memory, sleep and circadian rhythms. It is not known how this occurs hampering the development of effective AD drugs. We propose to address this issue using a mixed model approach to study the effect of AD on circadian rhythms and sleep using flies, mice and computer models.
Supervisor: Dr James Hodge.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Mild neonatal encephalopathy: neuroimaging, inflammatory profile and early clinical correlates of long term neurocognitive outcome
Early predictors of low IQ in children with a poor condition at birth is unknown and no effective treatment exists. In babies with poor condition at birth we will determine early neurocognitive outcomes and identify clinical, inflammatory, EEG and brain imaging changes in the newborn period using retrospective and prospective cohort study design.
Supervisor: Dr Ela Chakkarapani.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Synaptic and circuit development in cerebral cortex in a mouse model of schizophrenia
Neurodevelopmental diseases, such as schizophrenia, occur because neuronal circuits are not wired up correctly early in life. In this project, using cutting-edge two-photon microscopy, we will investigate how loss of the schizophrenia-related DISC1 gene, impairs the synaptic processes that drive neuronal circuit assembly in the young brain.
Supervisor: Dr Michael Ashby.
Lead Institution: Bristol.

Ehmt1 and the epigenetic control of genomic imprinting in neurodevelopmental disorders
Mutations that lead to haploinsufficiency of EHMT1 are known to be pathogenic for a number of neurodevelopmental disorders, including Kleefstra syndrome, developmental delay and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Taken together, these genetic data suggest a central importance for EHMT1 in brain development.
Supervisor: Professor Anthony Isles.
Lead Institution: Cardiff.

Chromatin dynamics in Huntington’s disease
Huntington’s disease is a devastating neurodegeneration caused by an expanded CAG repeat in the Huntington gene.  We think the onset of disease is influenced by the local chromatin configuration near the repeat.  We wish to explore this in stem cell and mouse models of HD using our joint expertise in HD and epigenetics.
Supervisor: Professor Lesley Jones.
Lead Institution: Cardiff.

Exploring the emergence of psychotic experiences using multimodal neuroimaging and mathematical modelling
Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia are among the most devastating mental health conditions. Combining mathematical modelling and multimodal neuroimaging, the aim of this PhD project is to understand the computational and neurocognitive processes underlying the emergence of psychotic experience such as hallucinations and delusions.
Supervisor: Dr Christoph Teufel.
Lead Institution: Cardiff.

Mitochondria and peroxisome crosstalk in neurons – How and why?
Mitochondria and peroxisomes are dynamic organelles which co-ordinate to drive energy production in neurons, yet how they communicate with each other under times of specific metabolic events is not well understood. The PhD student will use novel in vivo Drosophila genetic approaches and CRISPR cell culture techniques to investigate this phenomenon.
Supervisor: Dr Gaynor Smith.
Lead Institution: Cardiff.

Investigation of Motor Adaptation using Translational Neurophysiology
The sensorimotor system is adept at planning and executing dextrous movements including correcting errors on line. The brain mechanisms behind this process are poorly understood, especially in relation to ageing. This project will utilise both animal and human techniques to understand the neural network basis of age-related motor adaptation.
Supervisor: Dr Holly Rossiter.
Lead Institution: Cardiff.

Locating the absent self: characterising neurocognitive impairments of self-representation in autism spectrum disorder
Combining advanced brain imaging and computational approaches, we will identify brain networks and neural dynamics that show alternations in adults with autism spectrum disorder. Using novel behavioural measures, we will explore how the alternations in the autistic brain give rise to impaired self-representation in autism.
Supervisor: Dr Jiaxiang Zhang.
Lead Institution: Cardiff.

Identification of therapeutic drugs for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) using a cross-species screening approach
ALS is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that has no effective treatment available. In this project, the student will use a variety of cutting-edge methods including high-throughput screening, disease modelling using iPSCs, high-content imaging and in vivo analysis to identify and characterise candidate drug targets for the treatment of ALS.
Supervisor: Dr Benjamin Housden.
Lead Institution: Exeter.

Amyloid peptide β induces oxidative stress in brain microvascular endothelial cells: a study of the molecular mechanisms underlying the vascular component of Alzheimer’s dementia
Dementia costs the NHS £26 billion per year and will affect 1 million people in the UK by 2025. New treatments are desperately needed. We will study the involvement of blood circulation in dementia. This innovative project will open the way to the development of new drugs and will have a considerable impact on biomedical research and health care.
Supervisor: Dr Giordano Pula.
Lead Institution: Exeter.

Unveiling novel links between organelle cooperation, lipid metabolism and neuronal function in health and disease
This multi-disciplinary project combines cutting-edge neurobiological, imaging and modelling approaches to reveal novel links between organelle cooperation, lipid metabolism, neuronal function and neurodegenerative disorders.
Supervisor: Professor Michael Schrader.
Lead Institution: Exeter.

Investigating the role of mitophagy in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with no effective treatment. In this project, the student will use a variety of cutting-edge methods including iPSC-based modelling, CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing, electrophysiology, genomics, bioinformatics and high-content imaging to identify and characterize candidate genes for the treatment of ALS.
Supervisor: Dr Akshay Bhinge.
Lead Institution: Exeter.

Developing Methods of Precision Medicine in the Psychological Treatment of Depression
You will develop new precision medicine statistical techniques and models to help clinicians prescribe different psychological treatments for depression. Models will predict clinical outcomes from patient and therapy characteristics. This translational project will develop your statistical, health services research and clinical trials expertise.
Supervisor: Professor David Richards.
Lead Institution: Exeter.

Hypothalamic glial cell control of glucose homeostasis in diabetes
The hypothalamus contains neurons that control energy balance and whose activity is sensitive to circulating glucose levels. These neurons control, in part, the body’s response to changes in glucose availability. What is poorly defined, is how glial cells influence glucose-sensing neuron activity and how this is altered in diseases like diabetes.
Supervisor: Dr Craig Beall.
Lead Institution: Exeter.

Does disrupted retrosplenial cortex connectivity underlie memory impairments in prodromal Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder associated with progressive memory loss. The project will use in vitro and in vivo optogenetic methods in mice to study the role that the retrosplenial cortex plays in memory loss during early stages of dementia.
Supervisor: Dr Michael Craig.
Lead Institution: Exeter.

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