PhD/postdoc on the role of astrocytes in cortical plasticity

Leuven Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders (NERF)

20 Oct 2021

Leuven

Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders (NERF)

Vincent Bonin Lab

PhD/Post-doctoral

1

Description

Fully funded PhD student / postdoctoral research associate position available at Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders in Leuven, Belgium, (NERF, www.nerf.be), will be supervised by Vincent Bonin (NERF) and Lut Arckens (KU Leuven).

We are looking for a highly motivated and enthusiastic fellow interested in astrocyte neurobiology to join an exciting multi-lab collaboration on cell subtype-specific neuron-glia interactions between the Vision to Action Lab (PI: Vincent Bonin, NERF), the Neuroplasticity and Neuroproteomics Lab (Lut Arckens, KU Leuven), and the Laboratory for Glia Biology (Matthew Holt, VIB CBD). This consortium of labs brings expertise in visual cortical processing, visual plasticity and astrocyte biology and provides the opportunity to bridge measurements across scales and modalities.

The goal of the project is to reveal the contribution of astrocyte subtypes to visual plasticity. The overwhelming majority of work on cortical plasticity has focused on neurons. With their demonstrated roles in synaptic modeling, synaptic communication and neuromodulation, astrocytes could play a fundamental role in driving or modulating neural plasticity. To address this, we use a synergistic combination of approaches, including controlled visual deprivation experiments, single cell gene expression profiling, physiological and neuroanatomical measurements, in vivo and ex vivo, combined with chemogenetic manipulation of local astrocyte activity.

The selected fellow will investigate the role of astrocytes in plasticity by combining visual deprivation assays with characterization of dynamic neuron-glia interactions upon sensory plasticity. The work will involve ex vivo characterization, as well as cellular imaging of dendritic spines, calcium imaging of neurons and chemogenetic activation and inactivation of neurons and astrocytes in the awake behaving mouse. Targeting of specific cell subtypes will be guided by single cell transcriptome work and observations in fixed tissue and cortical brain slices, performed by our partner labs.

The fellow will closely collaborate with members of the Arckens and Holt labs on ‘omics, ex vivo physiology and neuroanatomical approaches. Fellows also have ample opportunities to interact with partner labs at VIB and KU Leuven. Career advancement activities, such as presentations at international scientific events, writing of funding proposals and organization of workshops, are strongly encouraged.

Profile

We seek a highly motivated individual with strong quantitative and technical skills and a collaborative spirit. While we have a preference for postdoctoral candidates, highly motivated and accomplished Master’s students who desire to do an ambitious PhD project will also be considered.

PhD student applicants: MSc degree in life sciences, physical sciences or engineering, with significant lab experience and a strong interest in quantitative anatomy or physiology are encouraged to apply. Prior experience in electrophysiology, in vivo imaging, quantitative animal behaviour or in data analysis is an advantage. Applications outside the NERF PhD program are welcome.

Postdoc applicants: PhD (or expected PhD) in neurobiology or a relevant field with an excellent research track record, strong technical and data analytical abilities (Python, MATLAB), and demonstrated ability to independently run projects are encouraged to apply. Prior experience with mice or in vivo electrophysiology, imaging or opto- or chemogenetics is an advantage but not a requirement. Computational scientists with interest in experimental neuroscience are encouraged to apply.

We offer

Opportunity to do cutting edge science in a supportive and collaborative team. The candidate will join the vibrant community of students and postdocs at NERF and Leuven Brain Institute. The lab has a strong multidisciplinary team with expertise in cortical and thalamocortical processing, large-scale and cellular resolution optical and electrical recordings, and is known for its open and collegial atmosphere and the strength of its collaborative work.

State-of-the-art tools and facilities: The laboratory is equipped with dedicated surgical, behavioral, and viral vector facilities, multiple setups for multiphoton microscopy, widefield imaging, high-density electrode recordings (Neuropixels) and patterned-light optogenetics. Proximity to exciting research institutes at the heart of Europe. NERF is within walking distance of KU Leuven on the campus of Imec, a world-leader in nanoelectronics research. Leuven is a short train ride away from Brussels at the heart of Europe.

This is a fully funded position. The position is for an initial 1-year term with the possibility of extension for up to 3-years assuming satisfactory performance.

How to apply?

Submit your application through the VIB online application tool: https://jobs.vib.be/apply/3807...

The application package should include:

  • a CV with complete publication list, including preprints and manuscripts in preparation,
  • the names and contact information of 2-3 referees,
  • a motivation letter and research statement specifying career goals and research interests.

For information and questions, contact, vincent.bonin@nerf.be. Applications by e-mail will not be considered. 

References

Slezak M, Kandler S, et al (2019). Distinct Mechanisms for Visual and Motor-Related Astrocyte Responses in Mouse Visual Cortex. Current Biology 29, 3120-3127 e3125. PDF.

Linaro D, Vermaercke B, Iwata R, et al (2019). Xenotransplanted Human Cortical Neurons Reveal Species-Specific Development and Functional Integration into Mouse Visual Circuits. Neuron 104, 972-986 e976. PDF.

Hennes M, Lombaert N, Wahis J, Van den Haute C, Holt MG, Arckens L (2020). Astrocytes shape the plastic response of adult cortical neurons to vision loss. Glia 68, 2102-2118. doi: 10.1002/glia.23830. Epub 2020 Apr 1. PDF.

Bayraktar OA, Bartels T, Holmqvist S, Kleshchevnikov V, Martirosyan A, Polioudakis D, Ben Haim L, Young AMH, Batiuk MY, Prakash K, Brown A, Roberts K, Paredes MF, Kawaguchi R, Stockley JH, Sabeur K, Chang SM, Huang E, Hutchinson P, Ullian EM, Hemberg M, Coppola G, Holt MG, Geschwind DH, Rowitch DH (2020). Astrocyte layers in the mammalian cerebral cortex revealed by a single-cell in situ transcriptomic map. Nat Neurosci. 23, 500-509. doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-0602-1. Epub 2020 Mar 16. PDF.

Batiuk MY, Martirosyan A, Wahis J, de Vin F, Marneffe C, Kusserow C, Koeppen J, Viana JF, Oliveira JF, Voet T, Ponting CP, Belgard TG, Holt MG (2020). Identification of region-specific astrocyte subtypes at single cell resolution. Nat Commun. 11, 1220. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-14198-8. PDF.