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Modelling the neural control of locomotion

PGR-P-716

Key facts

Type of research degree
PhD
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Project start date
Thursday 1 October 2020
Country eligibility
International (open to all nationalities, including the UK)
Funding
Competition funded
Source of funding
University of Leeds
Supervisors
Professor Netta Cohen
Schools
School of Computing
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

The microscopic roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans is a relatively simple animal, with a small and fully mapped anatomy and nervous system. Dubbed the &amp;ldquo;hydrogen atom&amp;rdquo; of systems neuroscience, it is also the subject of intensifying efforts to model this creature completely. We are interested in understanding the neuro-mechanical control of locomotion in this animal. This project combines models of neural dynamics with biomechanics: you will construct and test computational models of the dynamics of neural circuits that are integrated within a biomechanical framework. The research includes developing and implementing the models, validating them against experimental observations, performing dynamical systems analysis, e.g. to identify targets and modes of modulation, and generating experimentally testable predictions. This project will focus on modelling the dynamics of neural circuits that control locomotion. Specific topics could focus on a specific circuit or behaviour. Topics will be chosen from the scope and remit of the project, but tailored to individual interests and skills.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>We are interested in understanding the neuro-mechanical control of locomotion in this animal. Our approach combines models of neural dynamics with biomechanics: we construct and test computational models of the dynamics of neural circuits that are integrated within a biomechanical framework. We are interested in developing and implementing the models, validating them against experimental observations, performing dynamical systems analysis, e.g.&nbsp;to identify targets and modes of modulation, and generating experimentally testable predictions. This project will focus on modelling the dynamics of neural circuits that control locomotion. Specific topics could focus on a specific circuit or behaviour, for example:</p> <ul> <li>Modelling the neural and motor control of head muscles in 2D and/or 3D</li> <li>Modelling the interface between motor control in the head and body (including commands for the initiation/termination and modulation of locomotion and/or providing feedback from the body to the head)</li> <li>Modelling the coupling between the forward and backward locomotion circuits along the body</li> </ul> <p>Topics will be chosen from the scope and remit of the project, but tailored to individual interests and skills</p> <h5>Background</h5> <p>This studentship forms part of a larger collaborative and interdisciplinary project, that currently includes two academics (Thomas Ranner and Netta Cohen), two postdoctoral fellows and three PhD students. We study the neuromechanical basis of behaviour in the nematode worm <em>C. elegans</em>. Research combines biological experiments, mathematical and computational modelling of the neural control as well as investigations of the physics of the worm and its interaction with the environment. We are seeking to appoint up to four further PhD candidates focusing on the undulatory motion of this worm: one project on the mathematical understanding of numerical methods for biomechanical models (with Thomas Ranner), one on modelling the neural control of locomotion (with Netta Cohen), one experimental project, combining behavioural experiments and machine vision (with Netta Cohen) and one exploring the dynamics of the worm&rsquo;s behaviour (with Netta Cohen). All projects are envisioned within this multidisciplinary setting. You will join a multi-disciplinary, dynamic, and creative group within the School of Computing at the University of Leeds, with close ties to the Fluid Dynamics Centre for Doctoral Training, the Hope Laboratory and the van Oosten-Hawle Laboratory in the Faculty of Biological Sciences, where additional biological experimental facilities are housed. Informal enquires are welcome from all potential candidates.&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/computing-research-degrees/doc/apply">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is &ldquo;Modelling the neural control of locomotion&rdquo;&nbsp;as well as <a href="https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/computing/staff/301/professor-netta-cohen">Prof Netta Cohen</a>&nbsp;as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>We welcome applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.5 overall with at least 6.5 in writing and at 6.0 in reading, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p><strong>Self-funded students are welcome to apply.</strong></p> <p><strong>UK&nbsp;students</strong>&nbsp;&ndash;&nbsp;The&nbsp;<a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk/funding/138-leeds-doctoral-scholarships-2021-january-deadline">Leeds Doctoral Scholarship (January deadline)</a>&nbsp;and the <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk/funding/53-school-of-computing-scholarship">School of Computing Scholarship&nbsp;</a>are available to UK applicants. <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk/funding/60-alumni-bursary">Alumni Bursary</a> is available to graduates of the University of Leeds.</p> <p><strong>Non-UK students</strong>&nbsp;&ndash; The&nbsp;<a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk/funding/53-school-of-computing-scholarship">School of Computing Scholarship&nbsp;</a>&nbsp;is available to support the additional academic fees of international applicants. The&nbsp;<a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk/funding/48-china-scholarship-council-university-of-leeds-scholarships-2021">China Scholarship Council - University of Leeds Scholarship</a>&nbsp;is available to nationals of China. The&nbsp;<a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk/funding/73-leeds-marshall-scholarship">Leeds Marshall Scholarship</a>&nbsp;is available to support US citizens. <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk/funding/60-alumni-bursary">Alumni Bursary</a> is available to graduates of the University of Leeds.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information regarding the application procedure,&nbsp;please contact Doctoral College Admissions<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:phd@engineering.leeds.ac.uk">phd@engineering.leeds.ac.uk</a>, t: +44 (0)113 343 5057</p> <p>For further information regarding the project, please contact Prof Netta Cohen<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:N.Cohen@leeds.ac.uk">N.Cohen@leeds.ac.uk</a></p>


<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>