Updated: 4 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 01 Feb 2021


Neuronal representations of memory formation and amnesia, using calcium imaging in freely moving mice.

The doctoral fellowship programme INPhINIT ”la Caixa” is devoted to attracting talented Early-Stage Researchers—of any nationality—who wish to pursue doctoral studies.

Universitat de Barcelona- a leading European University- allows you to work in a first class research environment while benefitting from an attractive salary to cover living, travel and family costs.

Group and project information

Applicants will be integrated into the research group “Pathogenesis of immune-mediated neuronal disorders” (P.I. Josep Dalmau, MD, PhD). It is an interdisciplinary group that combines physics, statistics, computer science, neuroscience and immune-neurology to understand the effects of the anti-NMDA-R encephalitis at the neuronal circuitry level as a natural model of a reversible anterograde and gradual retrograded amnesia.

Josep Dalmau, MD, PhD has been studying immune-mediated disorders of the nervous system for over 25 years. His research includes the comprehensive characterization of autoimmune disorders targeting brain proteins and understanding how the underlying autoimmune responses alter nervous system function at the molecular and cellular levels. This work has successfully resulted in the identification of novel clinical syndromes and the associated immune-mechanisms, characterization of the target antigens, and development of diagnostic tests and treatment strategies. Dr. Dalmau discovered anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis and related autoimmune encephalitis. He was the first to demonstrate the functional effects of patient anti-NMDA antibodies on neuronal function, providing a link between immunologic processes and neuronal events, such as signal transmission and neuronal plasticity. Since 2011, he is the co-PI of the Tissue Bank “Neuroimmunology Fluid Collection” in IDIBAPS where hundreds of CSF samples and blood samples from patients are stored. The patients CSF containing anti-NMDAR antibodies as well as the control CSF with no antibodies necessary for our study will be obtained from this Tissue Bank.

Pablo Jercog, PhD has a background in Physics and his research is focused on the physiological basis of neuronal variability and its role in behavioral and cognitive processes. His quantitative background in physics applied to neural processes, led him to combine the recording of neuron’s electrical activity and calcium imaging with the analysis and modeling of this activity in order to understand how information is encoded and processed by neural circuits. He also became an expert in the neuronal representation of space in the hippocampus Dr. Jercog now studies the neural basis of learning and memory formation from the single cell up to large ensembles of neurons. He uses his computational and mathematical training to build algorithms that identify patterns of neuronal activity that are involved in the encoding of space during navigation tasks. He uses multi-dimensional statistical techniques on the activity of neural populations to establish the similarity and correlations across neural patterns recorded at different stages of the learning. These methods allow him to scrutinize how memories are formed, modified and used to perform spatial navigation and other memory tasks.

Project Goals

This is a unique opportunity for a highly qualified candidate interested in studies focused in visualizing circuits involved in memory and behavior using state of the art technology applied in health and disease conditions. The project is at the intersection of cognitive neuroscience, calcium imaging, and big-data analysis. It implies the use of neural population data from an animal model we recently established of antibody-mediated disruption of synaptic function (NMDA and other receptors) causing alteration of memory formation. The project focuses in the role of hippocampal representation of space (the GPS system of the brain), and the circuitry for association-learning to see in vivo (via portable miniaturized microscopes to register calcium-imaging) the function of these neurons in forming and retrieving memories in normal and pathological conditions. The changes in neuronal function within the network via changes in synaptic plasticity will be investigated from normal conditions and in a state of severe anterograde amnesia and back to normal. For analyze this unique and large data sets we will utilize techniques of machine learning and signal information theory.

The project will be developed at IDIBAPS, University of Barcelona. Advisor Josep Dalmau, MD, PhD and Mentor: Pablo Jercog PhD. The mission of IDIBAPS is to encourage translational research, innovation, and technological progress in the field of biomedicine.

Offer Requirements

 Experience: At the call deadline (25 February 2021), applicants must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and not yet have been awarded a doctoral degree.

 Studies pursued: At the time of recruitment (November 2021), candidates must comply with one of the following options:

o To have completed the studies that lead to an official university degree adapted to the European Higher Education Area awarding 300 ECTS credits, of which at least 60 ECTS credits must correspond to master level.

o To have completed a degree in a university not adapted to the European Higher Education Area that gives access to doctoral studies. The verification of an equivalent level of studies to the ones mentioned above will be made by the university when the admission procedure starts.

 Geographic mobility: Candidates must have resided or have carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Spain for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the call deadline. Short stays, such as holidays, done in a country other than their country of usual residence (where they carried out their main activity), will be considered as time spent in their country of usual residence. Candidates who obtain a fellowship must carry out their PhD at a university or research center where they have not studied their bachelor degree.

 Level of English: Candidates must have a demonstrable level of English (B2 or higher).

Working conditions

- Duration: 3-year contract under the Spanish or Portuguese labour legislation in force, respecting health and safety, and social security provisions in a stimulating research training environment, with access to appropriate equipment, facilities and opportunities.

- Budget: The maximum total payment amount will be €122,592 + Optional prize of €7,500


Please submit your application (CV and letter of interest) to Pablo Jercog < >

Support for applicants

The Institute of Neurosciences offers support to applicants (eligibility check, info sessions, feedback on the draft proposal) and has recently launched a Mentoring programme (subject to availability).

Further information Call

Deadline: 1 February 2021

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