Zoo screenshot showing webcam images of smiling faces of those taking part in the Science Day event on 10th December 2021.

The Unit held its thirteenth Science Day on Friday 10th December 2021. Unpublished work and future research projects were the focus of discussion, and Unit members and visitors enthusiastically took the opportunity to provide the constructive criticism that is vital for nurturing collaborative, multidisciplinary research.

There were 8 short research talks, all of which were given by the Unit’s early-career scientists. Attendees were also treated to two Keynote Lectures: A first by Dr. Leila Reddy of the Centre de Recherche Cerveau et Cognition (CerCo), Toulouse, France, during which she detailed unique research insights into the encoding of sequence learning by human hippocampal neurons; and a second lecture by Dr. Armin Lak of the University of Oxford, in which he gave an engaging account of neuronal circuits important for learning from sensory confidence and reward value.

Unit Interim Director Professor Peter Magill commented: “It was exciting to see how the creative thinking and innovative experiments of the Unit’s students and postdoctoral staff are pushing back the frontiers of discovery and translational research. It was also a distinct pleasure to announce the inaugural winner of the Director’s Award for Open Research. Dr Shenghong He is a most deserving Award winner.”

Full resolution group screenshot.

Portrait photo of Carolina Reis

Our congratulations go to Unit D.Phil. student Carolina Reis for successfully defending her doctoral thesis, entitled “Probing and restoring disrupted thalamocortical interactions during Parkinson’s disease and Essential tremor”, in her viva voce examination on 18th October 2021.

Carolina’s viva examiners were Dr Rick Helmich (Radboud University, The Netherlands) and Professor Rafal Bogacz (University of Oxford). The viva took place remotely via digital conferencing.

Carolina was supervised by Associate Professor Hayriye Cagnan, Associate Professor Andrew Sharott and Professor Peter Brown.

Logo of Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s

We are delighted to announce that the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit has received funding from the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative for a substantial multi-year research collaboration to advance the understanding of brain cell and circuit dysfunction in Parkinson’s.

The new international collaboration builds on the MRC Unit’s interactions with colleagues at the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre, and will bring three Oxford teams together with researchers based at the University of Boston, USA, the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, the University of Peking, China, and Stanford University, USA. As part of this collaboration, the MRC Unit will leverage its leading expertise in high-resolution in vivo phenotyping of rodent models of Parkinson’s.

ASAP is a coordinated research initiative to advance targeted basic research for Parkinson’s disease. Its mission is to accelerate the pace of discovery and inform the path to a cure through collaboration, research-enabling resources, and data sharing. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research is ASAP’s implementation partner and issued the grant.

Professor Peter Magill, who will lead the Unit’s contribution to the collaboration, commented, “This is an exciting opportunity to enhance the Unit’s strong portfolio of fundamental and translational neuroscience research. We look forward to working with our collaborators as we pursue our shared goal of defining why, how and when brain network dynamics go awry in Parkinson’s.”

Portrait photo of Saed Khawaldeh

Our congratulations go to Unit D.Phil. student Saed Khawaldeh for successfully defending his doctoral thesis, entitled “Subthalamic nucleus bursting dynamics and prediction of motor measures using machine learning”, in his viva voce examination on 14th October 2021.

Saed’s viva examiners were Professor Simon Little (University of California San Francisco, USA) and Professor Kia Nobre (University of Oxford). The viva took place remotely via digital conferencing.

Saed was supervised by Professor Peter Brown (MRC BNDU) and Professor Mark Woolrich (Psychiatry).

A picture of a brain cell coloured in blue, with superimposed orange text advertising that PhD studentships are available.

We are excited to announce that the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit has up to three MRC-funded studentships available from October 2022 to support Ph.D. (D.Phil.) projects as part of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. Each studentship is for 3.5 years.

The MRC-funded D.Phil. projects on offer are:

Project 1 (1 studentship available). Brain-computer interfacing for closed-loop neuromodulation. Supervisor: Associate Professor Huiling Tan

Project 2 (1 studentship available). Investigating network dynamics of the human hippocampus. Supervisor: Professor David Dupret

Project 3 (1 studentship available). Brain-inspired machine learning for optimizing deep brain stimulation. Supervisor: Professor Rafal Bogacz

The closing date for applications is 12.00 midday UK time on Friday 3rd December 2021.

See our Studentships page for more details on projects and how to apply.

We welcome applications from both Home Students and International Students. Candidates can apply for more than one D.Phil. project. Candidates are strongly encouraged to contact project supervisors in advance of applying.

Portrait photo of Huiling Tan

Many congratulations to Unit Group Leader and MRC Investigator Huiling Tan on being awarded a prestigious Turing Fellowship for the 2021/22 academic year.

Turing Fellows are scholars with proven research excellence in data science, artificial intelligence or a related field, and are appointed following an open competition by The Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.

Huiling commented, “I am delighted to be named a Turing Fellow. I look forward to working with the Turing Institute and its network of Fellows to advance the Unit’s research, particularly that using machine learning to improve the detection and control of brain activity dynamics for therapeutic benefit.”

Photograph of Dr Moritz Moeller

Our congratulations go to Unit D.Phil. student Moritz Möller for successfully defending his doctoral thesis, entitled “Learning about the distribution of rewards through dopamine and the basal ganglia pathways”, in his viva voce examination on 15th September 2021.

Moritz’s viva examiners were Professor Samuel Gerschman (Department of Psychology, Harvard University, USA) and Professor Timothy Behrens (Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford). The viva took place remotely via digital conferencing.

Moritz was supervised by Professor Rafal Bogacz (MRC BNDU) and Associate Professor Sanjay Manohar (NDCN).

Portrait photo of Dr Petra Fischer

We bid a fond farewell to Dr Petra Fischer as she leaves the Unit to take up her new position of Lecturer in Neuroscience at the University of Bristol.

Petra has been working in the Unit as part of the Brown Group and Tan Group, where she has delivered a series of important studies that elucidate the role of neuronal oscillations in the control of movement in health and disease.

Unit Interim Director Peter Magill commented "It has been a pleasure and a privilege to host Petra in the Unit for her Ph.D. studies and postdoctoral training. Petra is an exceptional researcher and has made outstanding contributions to a wide range of scientific and public engagement activities at the Unit. We look forward to exploring further opportunities to collaborate with Petra as she establishes her independent research programme in Bristol. We will all miss working with Petra in the Unit, but it is a comfort to know that it is ‘au revoir’ and not ‘goodbye’."

Portrait photo of Roman Rothaermel

Our congratulations go to Unit D.Phil. student Roman Rothaermel for successfully defending his doctoral thesis, entitled “Brain-wide cell assembly patterns for memory-guided behaviour”, in his viva voce examination on 28th July 2021.

Roman’s viva examiners were Dr Andrew MacAskill (University College London) and Professor Stephanie Cragg (University of Oxford). The viva took place remotely via digital conferencing.

Roman was supervised by Professor David Dupret (MRC BNDU) and Professor Mark Stokes (Experimental Psychology). 

Portrait photos of Beatriz Silveira de Arruda (left) and Ioana Grigoras (right).

Congratulations to Unit students Beatriz Silveira de Arruda and Ioana Grigoras on co-winning the Director’s Award for Public Engagement for 2021.

The Award is given annually, on the basis of nominations made by Unit members, to recognise and celebrate the exemplary contributions of individuals or a small collective to the Unit’s extensive Outreach Programme.

Beatriz's and Ioana’s Awards were announced by Unit Interim Director Professor Peter Magill at a special ceremony held last week.

Professor Magill commented “It gives us all great pleasure to reward Beatriz and Ioana in this way. Both have clearly shown strong personal commitments to public engagement, successfully delivering a number of activities in Oxford and beyond. Beatriz has taken the Unit’s outreach programme as far as Brazil, and Ioana is commended for her creative use of digital media for wider impact.