4-year PhD Studentship in Decision Neuroscience – Newcastle University-UK)

Reece Foundation 4-year PhD Studentship in Decision Neuroscience – Employing closed-loop auditory stimulation to boost Flexible Rule-Learning in Health and Disorders


Start date and duration

20 September 2021, 4 years


Many neurological conditions are characterised by abnormal brain oscillations, leading to deficits in flexible cognitive function and intellectual disability. Our research in animal models has recently revealed novel neuronal mechanisms in the prefrontal cortex that underlie behavioural flexibility and how these go awry in animal models of autism spectrum disorders. We have recently shown that closed loop optogenetic stimulation can boost or suppress cortical oscillations at selected frequencies, depending systematically on the feedback loop filter (Zaaimi et al., in revision). This studentship will apply closed-loop control principles towards development of a non-invasive, wearable neurostimulation device. We will test the efficacy of closed-loop auditory stimulation (CLAS), controlled in real-time by electroencephalography (EEG), to manipulate attention during tasks designed to probe flexible learning in healthy individuals and ASD patient cohorts. We propose to test the causal influence of CLAS on attention and task switching, in order to develop a non-invasive therapy with relevance to conditions including ASD for which current treatments are limited.

The studentship, hosted by the Banerjee lab at Newcastle University, will involve a highly synergistic academic, neurological, and industry team, complemented by key collaborators at Oxford/UCL (UK), MIT (USA), and Bochum (Germany) offering innovative training in decision making, circuit and computational neuroscience.


Banerjee et al. (2020) Value-guided remapping of sensory cortex by lateral orbitofrontal cortex. Nature 585, 245-250.

Zaaimi B et al. Closed-loop optogenetic control of normal and pathological network dynamics. Nat Biomed Eng. Under Revision Preprint DOI: 10.21203/rs.3.rs-78230/v1.


The Reece Foundation donation for research studentships in Translational Systems Neuroscience at Newcastle University https://www.reece-foundation.org/

Name of supervisor(s)

Primary supervisor:

Dr Abhishek Banerjee

Senior Lecturer

Head, Adaptive Decisions lab


Bio: Dr Banerjee’s lab is investigating neural circuit mechanisms underlying sensory processing, and neurological disorders in the autism spectrum. Having been trained at Oxford and MIT, he develops and applies in vivo high-resolution and whole-brain imaging and electrophysiology to understand the role of the prefrontal interactions with sensory areas in flexible decision-making (Nature, PNAS, Brain, Nat. Biotech., Neuron, Nat. Neurosci.).

Secondary Supervisor:

Professor Andrew Jackson

Professor of Neural Interfaces


Eligibility Criteria

  • Have or expect at least a 2:1 honours degree or international equivalent in mathematics, physics, computer science, engineering, neuroscience, biology or similar.
  • A masters-level degree. In exceptional circumstances, you can apply without this but will be expected to complete Masters-level taught modules in relevant subjects.
  • English Language: IELTS 6.5 overall (minimum of 5.5 in all sub-skills).
  • Additional funds for a successful EU/international candidate could be investigated.

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. Please ‘Create a new account’ and complete the mandatory fields:

  • Programme code: 8300F. 
  • Programme of study: ‘PhD in the Faculty of Medical Sciences (full time) – Biosciences’.
  • Studentship code: BI040.
  • CV and covering letter stating how your interests and experience relate to the project.
  • Degree transcripts and certificates of English language qualifications.


You are encouraged to informally contact abhi.banerjee@newcastle.ac.uk to discuss the position.

Funding Notes

100% of home fees and annual living expenses of £19,919